Mini-Books in Small: A Photoessay

This week’s post is written by Anne Causey, Public Service Assistant at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library:

Local bookmakers and bookbinders involved with the Virginia Arts of the Book Center (VABC) in Charlottesville are gearing up for this year’s collaborative project:  creating a miniature book. In fact, each participant must make fifteen books. What better way to become inspired than to visit the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, which houses more than 13,000 miniatures?

Here the 15 bookbinders and bookmakers investigate several boxes of miniature books, primarily from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection. I pulled some older more traditional printed books and then some contemporary artists books that use a variety of materials, binding and art work. They were excited by many of the examples – and excited by the housings as well. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Miniature books are defined as smaller than three inches in each direction, and yes, they are “real” books – just printed on a smaller scale. The printer uses a text small enough to fit the size and form of the pages and sizes down the illustrations.

The participants looked at about 40 examples, including a Medieval Manuscript. A Parisian, miniature book of hours, dated from the 14th-century is the oldest such book in Special Collections. This tiny book contains five full-page illustrations and a vine design on every page, not to mention grotesques in the form of dragons and other beasts on some of the pages.

I am showing the group a 14th-century illuminated manuscript, a Parisian book of hours. Nicknamed “Baby,” it is 6.5 X 5 cm and 239 folios, or pages. The text is Gothic script on vellum and is in Latin except for the 12-page calendar, which is French. We had it rebound in a historically-correct leather binding with ties. The group was almost as interested in the 19th century red velvet binding that was removed but still kept with the book. (MSS. 382 /M.MS. W. From the Papers of Edward L. Stone, purchased 1938. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Books in miniature were made for various reasons. Some were made small so they were easy to carry, while some accompanied packages as advertisements. Some were made for children, and still others were made because the content of the book or its ownership was controversial.

The miniature books in Special Collections comprise a wide range—from traditional older printed books to more whimsical artist books. The collection includes more than 12,000 miniatures donated by Mrs. Caroline Brandt. Her collection has accumulated over 40 years, spans six centuries and contains volumes in more than 30 languages.  Mrs. Brandt donates more books to the collection every year.

The VABC is hosting an exhibition, entitled Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books 2: A Traveling Exhibit from March 1 – April 26 at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, 2125 Ivy Road, Charlottesville, VA.

VABC will host a reception during the Virginia Festival of the Book on Sunday, March 24 at 2:30PM, including a discussion of the exhibit by Molly Schwartzburg, curator of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. During March, Special Collections will also have an exhibit from its holdings of miniature books to coordinate with this visit.

This group of miniatures were all designed and hand-written by contemporary bookmaker Margaret Challenger between 1999 and 2003. Several are accordion-style, and all of them have specialty hand-made papers and Challenger’s calligraphy. The book with the black cover and gold center medallion, which shows a knight’s shield and sword, is called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” Enclosed in the front cover is another smaller book, containing his prayer; her calligraphy, written in purple is, “an Anglo Saxon version of Italian Uncial, as used in The St. Cuthbert Gospels, written before 716 A.D.” Many of the books have interesting paper closures or boxes. I was hoping such variety would give the bookmakers inspiration for their own projects. (Lindemann 3747-3760. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This red and gold miniature bookcase, which is the size of a more typical book (6 1/4 x 7 ½ in), holds 65 tiny volumes. They are each bound in colorful book cloth and have tiny text. The first one, “Aunt Faith’s Recipes,” does indeed contain actual recipes – for desserts, candy, and beverages. I only know this because the group wanted a book to be taken out to see if it contained text. Less than half of these are known as micro-minis, which are between 1” to 2” tall, while the rest are ultra-micro-minis, defined as smaller than 1” in any measurement (Lindemann 5766, no. 1-65. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This accordion-style book has a bright orange cover and is enclosed in a black envelope stamped with a silver cross. It is entitled “Hildegard of Bingen: Her Music.” The calligraphy in green is “from Commentary by M. Fox on the text of Hildegard of Bingen: 1985.” Hildegard was a saint born in 1098 who composed over 70 songs. The book is a creation of Margaret Challenger, 2000. The colophon reports that she used Ingres paper and gouache calligraphy. (Lindemann 03747. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Miniatures are sometimes commentaries about the times in which we live. For instance, “Consumption Junction” a miniature created by Laura Russell in 2002, features painted corrugated cardboard covers, affixed by a single bolt. The book is a protest against modern consumerism. (Lindemann 05115. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This manuscript from Ethiopia looks rather old, but is estimated to date from the twentieth century. The script is in black and red ink on vellum, and the vellum binding wraps around the accordion-style text block. There are 7 hand-painted illustrations. (Not yet cataloged, from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The “I, Robot” miniature is too cute! The group chuckled at this one. The robot “covers” or container is metal with a magnetized closing at the back of its head. The fun surprise comes in opening it and pulling out the pages. This creative miniature was made by Jan and Jarmila Sobota, in the Czech Republic, 2007. Ours is number 3 of 30. (Not yet cataloged, from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Nutshell books are always a big hit. Some are still in stages of being cataloged (From the McGehee Miniature Book Collection. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This Just In: A Peek Inside the Maurice Lévy Collection of French Gothic

In a previous post Nicole Bouché, Director of the Small Special Collections Library, related the story of how the Maurice Lévy Collection of French Gothic arrived at its permanent home under Grounds.  Thanks to the magnificent gift of the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Novels received in 1942, U.Va. has world-renowned holdings in the English Gothic novel, now wonderfully augmented by the Lévy Collection.  Here is a brief peek at a few of its riches.

A shelf of Ann Radcliffe in French translation.

At the core of the Lévy Collection are its many contemporary French translations of English Gothic novels.  Here, for instance, is a listing of the Ann Radcliffe works to be found in the Lévy Collection:

  • Les châteaux d’Athlin et de Dunbayne. Paris: Testu, 1797.
  • Le couvent de Sainte Catherine, ou les moeurs du XIII° Siècle. Paris: Renard,1810.
  • Eléonore de Rosalba, ou le confessionnal des pénitens noirs. Paris: Lepetit, 1797.
  • La forêt, ou l’Abbaye de Saint-Clair. Paris: Denne, 1796.
  • La forêt, ou l’Abbaye de Saint-Clair. Paris: Maradan, 1798.
  • La forêt, ou l’Abbaye de Saint-Clair. Paris: Lévy, 1880.
  • L’italien, ou le confessionnal des pénitens noirs. Paris: Maradan, 1798.
  • L’italien, ou le confessionnal des pénitents noirs. Paris: Lévy, 1873.
  • Julia, ou les souterrains de Mazzini. Paris: Maradan, 1798.
  • Julia, ou les souterrains du château de Mazzini. Paris: Lévy, 1897.
  • Les mystères du château d’Udolphe. Paris: Lévy, 1874.
  • Le tombeau. Paris: Lerouge, 1812.
  • Les visions du château des Pyrénées. Paris: Lévy, 1896.

Le moine, comédie en cinq actes (Paris, an VI [1797/98])

The Gothic novel proved so popular with readers that it quickly penetrated popular culture in both England and France, attracting a wider audience.  Consider, for example, Matthew Gregory Lewis’s novel, The Monk.  It created a sensation when first published in London in 1796. The following year it was translated into French and published in Paris as Le moine, and the Lévy Collection contains a copy of the first French edition. In December of 1797 Lewis’s novel was adapted for the Paris stage, in true French fashion, as a “comédie en cinq actes, mélée de chants, danses, pantomime.” The Lévy Collection includes a fine copy of the rare printed text, which contains a cast list for the  premiere performance at the Théâtre de l’Émulation, together with, intriguingly, “des changemens et un nouveau denouement.” (Please, not a happy ending!)

Matthew Gregory Lewis, Le moine (Paris, 1797)

Reversed positions: Matthew Gregory Lewis, Le moine (Paris, an VI [1797/98])

As Nicole Bouché has noted, Maurice Lévy was fascinated by the illustrations found in French Gothic novels, and in 1973 he published a book on the subject, Images du roman noir.  Illustrations may reveal unexpected things about a publication.  For example, the first French translation of The Monk (Paris, 1797) includes an etched frontispiece depicting one of the novel’s most dramatic moments.  The translation sold so well that the same publisher issued a new edition later that same year.  But in that edition’s frontispiece, the characters switch positions.  It is likely that the publisher, not anticipating the need for a second edition, neglected to save the copperplate and therefore had to commission a new plate of the same image.  In copying the original frontispiece (which printed in reverse orientation from the design as etched on the copperplate), the etcher necessarily reversed the image!

The castles of Montreuil & Barre (London, [ca. 1820])

For those English readers who could not afford the cost of a multi-volume novel, publishers offered Gothic fiction in shorter, less expensive form.  The castles of Montreuil & Barre was first serialized in The Lady’s Magazine during 1797-1798, then printed in chapbook form (“price sixpence”) with a lurid hand-colored frontispiece to attract purchasers. Special Collections already possesses two early chapbook editions of this work, courtesy of the Sadleir-Black Collection, and the Lévy Collection contributes a third, published by W. Mason and dating to ca. 1820. This copy is in its original blue paper wrappers, which feature on the inside a list of the various chapbooks available at “Mason’s Pamphlet Warehouse” on Clerkenwell Green.

Because many of the Lévy volumes are two centuries old, they display interesting evidence of ownership and use by multiple generations of readers and collectors.  Two works in the Lévy collection, for instance, bear the booklabel of noted artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901).  It is shown here (above Maurice Lévy’s booklabel), pasted into a copy of the intriguingly titled Miss Glamour, ou les hommes dangereux (Paris, an IX [1800/01]).  Styled on the title-page as a ‘free translation from the English’ by Théodore-Pierre Bertin, the original English novel has yet to be positively identified. Perhaps Bertin, who self-published this very rare edition, was actually its author?

Emanuella, ou la découverte premature (Paris, an IX [1800/01]) is a French translation of Eliza Haywood’s The rash resolve, or the untimely discovery. First published in 1724, decades before the heyday of the Gothic novel in England, its plot nonetheless contains some Gothic elements, and it is interesting to see it revived at this time for the French market. Also interesting is the provenance: this copy bears the booklabels of (at top) prolific author Paul Lacroix (“Bibliophile Jacob,” 1806-1884) and (at bottom) the founder of Surrealism, André Breton (1896-1966).  Fittingly, Breton’s arresting booklabel was designed by Salvador Dalí.

“The name’s Maclean. Fitzroy Maclean.”

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post from U.Va. alum (CLAS ’12) and Special Collections volunteer Emma Whittington:

Tucked neatly into 94 boxes housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library reside the fragments of the life of a man that many people — all over the world — know more about than they might think. Postcards, documents marked “Top Secret,” notes written on Buckingham Palace stationery, drafts of novels, and hundreds of photo negatives make up the archive of one of the most fascinating Brits of the 20th century. His name is Maclean, Fitzroy Maclean. And he is widely believed to be one of the inspirations for Ian Fleming’s famous character, James Bond.

An identification tag from the UK delegation to a NATO Parliamentarians Conference, undated. (MSS 11487. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Maclean was a Scottish soldier, politician, diplomat, author, and pundit who traveled extensively throughout his career, spending time in London, Paris, Moscow, Cairo, Yugoslavia, and almost everywhere in between. Quickly promoted up the ranks in all of the many positions he held, Maclean is remembered for his adventurous spirit and contributions to British allied efforts during WWII, numerous books (spy novels, biographies, and autobiographies), extensive travel reporting to the government from remote parts of Central Asia, and numerous friendships with such people as Winston Churchill, Josip Broz ‘Tito,’ Prince Charles, and the Queen Mother herself.

The University of Virginia Library acquired his papers in 1998, and they have been accessible to researchers ever since.  The collection, which contains correspondence, manuscripts, typescripts, newspapers, memorabilia, and many other kinds of artifacts, vividly tells the story of one man’s rise to the upper ranks of the British Foreign Service through talent, determination, and a sense of adventure.

One of many photographs of Maclean from across the scope of his lengthy career. This one dates approximately from the Second World War. (MSS 11487. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Early career letters paint the portrait of a confident, adept worker—for example, a letter from an official with the British Foreign Service addressed to Maclean’s father praises the boy as quicker than other staff members and one to watch out for. Later letters talk of Maclean’s reassignments: first to Paris, then to Moscow—where he was given just under a year to master Russian in his own free time and on his own dime. Maclean did just that, and his skilled reporting on the political climate in Russia brought him recognition from British officials of the highest order. Winston Churchill himself decided in 1943 that Maclean would be dropped into Bosnia by parachute to work as the British representative to Yugoslavian dictator Josip Broz Tito. There, Maclean befriended the Dictator, reporting back to Churchill that Tito should receive British support for his anti-German war efforts. Maclean’s hard work in Yugoslavia remains one of his best-known legacies, and his original, Top Secret reports provide a first-hand look at his determined work ethic. The memos, written in a journalistic style and sent out as reports to the British government, helped British officials understand the culture and political climate of the area where Maclean was stationed. This was crucial work during the Cold War era, as Tito has been considered the brainpower behind the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a group of states which deemed itself “outside” either of the major Cold War power blocs. Maclean’s understanding of the Yugoslavian nation and mindset better informed Western Bloc leaders of how best to interact with the NAM’s most prominent member.

One of the many previously classified files in the Maclean Papers relating to his work in Yugoslavia; this one concerns the” military and political situation in Serbia,” ca. 1943-1945. (MSS 11487. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

A snapshot of Tito (left),and Fitzroy Maclean (center left), with two other unidentified figures, ca. 1940s. (MSS 11487. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg).

It is this same dutiful—and adventurous—spirit which has lead many to believe Maclean was the inspiration for Bond. Well, that and the fact Maclean and Ian Fleming were close personal friends. Their relationship is one of many stories told through the Papers. A photo of Maclean’s shows Fleming casually stirring a cup of coffee on a lazy afternoon in the countryside together (Box 79). Two letters from Fleming focus on Maclean’s own endeavors as a writer (he published the very successful, autobiographical book Eastern Approaches in 1949—four years before Fleming would publish his first Bond novel, Casino Royale). One of the letters, sent to Approaches publisher Jonathan Cape, shows that Fleming had read Maclean’s book carefully. He writes that Parts I & II of Approaches are “beautifully written and of absorbing interest,” and continues by advising Maclean to cut out sections in which he feels the Brigadier comes off too pompously. He concludes:

It is such a magnificent book and I have so much admiration and affection for Fitzroy that I would like him to avoid the criticisms which he will get from many who don’t know him as well as I do.

If it would be any help please don’t hesitate to show him this letter. I have no hesitation in being cruel with the intention of being kind!

Alas, I expect it is too late.

Yours ever,


The letter shows that Fleming was not only acquainted with the details of Maclean’s personal life, he was fascinated by it. Perhaps fascinated enough that some of Maclean’s adventures seeped their way into Fleming’s own novels?

If James Bond ever grew old, he might look like this. In this 1983 snapshot, Maclean speaks to a reporter about his work in Yugoslavia. (MSS 11487. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Of course, if we are to believe that Maclean was an inspiration for the character James Bond, his records should be chock-full of examples of a glamorous and cosmopolitan life. No “International Man of Mystery” archive could be complete without signed autographs from movie stars and personal thank you notes from the Queen Mother herself. It seems that Lauren Bacall actually introduced Maclean to a well-known American whiskey, writing on a small autograph card: “Here is that Jack Daniels I promised you — perhaps you will become addicted to it as I have. Enjoy it.” Did the ‘real’ Bond prefer bourbon and ginger to the infamous ‘martini, shaken not stirred’?

Letters and invitations to Maclean from members of the Royal Family. (MSS 11487. photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)

Also fascinating are several invitations from Prince Charles to come over for tea, and handwritten notes from Queen Elizabeth thanking him for the gift of a rhododendron plant and one of his very own ‘spy story’ collections, Take Nine Spies. In Box 4 of the Papers, on a handwritten note dated July 17th, 1978, the Queen Mother writes:

Dear Sir Fitzroy, It was so very kind of you to give me a copy of your absorbing and fascinating book, “Take Nine Spies,” and I have enjoyed reading it more than any book that I have read for years. What research it must have entailed, the dates and the details and the personalities are legion, making each spy story unwind better than the most exciting detective thriller — what an anxious and desperate life it must be, to be a spy! They none of them seem to be at all happy! Thank you so much indeed for your kindness in giving me such a delightful gift, and for giving me such pleasure. With my love to Veronica, and I hope that you will both come again to Royal Lodge, I am, ever yours sincerely, Elizabeth R

As fun as it is to sleuth-out whether Bond is based on the real-life Maclean, there’s not too much detective work that needs to be done: The Papers’ impressive breadth tells the story well. The real value of the Papers is the insight they provide into an era contemporary historians continue to study with avid interest. Such a vast source of primary documents and once-classified information is of high value as we continue to evaluate and analyze the legacy of The Cold War. With Cold War-era motifs like espionage being continually showcased in today’s pop culture—think Archer, Mad Men, and the latest Bond installment, Skyfall—it’s truly impressive to be able to learn about a real-life soldier whose quick wit and hard work brought him adventure in a time of great political strife. Professor, scholar, historian, and pop culture junkie alike will find something of interest in the paper trail left behind by one Sir Fitzroy Maclean.

-Emma Whittington, CLAS ‘12


Class Notes: Kirt von Daacke’s HIUS 4501: Slavery & Social Life at Early U.Va.

Yesterday, Kirt von Daacke, history professor and former Special Collections student employee, and his HIUS 4501: Slavery & Social Life at Early U.Va. researched through some of our most treasured, old, and fragile University Archives materials.  They pored through these early records, which document the founding, building, and day-to-day management of U.Va.  These early records include Board of Visitors minutes, faculty chairman journals, faculty minutes, letters from Thomas Jefferson’s descendants, proctor’s ledgers, etc.  So what do these records have in common?  The threads of a slave economy run through them.

One student was doing preliminary research on the University’s practice of hiring out slaves for labor.  He searched through the proctor’s ledgers (proctor’s ledgers show evidence of financial transactions) and found many kinds of payments, including purchases of stoves, fees for brick work, and the hiring out of slaves.  Although challenged by the stylized script of the time, the student found several entries related to his topic in the February 12, 1820 labor account.  Lines 4 through 8 from the top of part of the ledger page, below, show the University paying a Boxley, Nu[nce], Sandridge, and Barksdale for the hiring of negroes.  Incidentally, N[elson] Barksdale was a University employee, so it appears that the University may have been getting enslaved workers owned by their employees.  These enslaved workers likely worked on crews, building the University.

The student not only learned about the topic he was researching, but gained insight into the materials and methods of primary research scholarship.

Detail showing slaves being hired out for work at U.Va., 12 February 1820, from the University of Virginia Proctor’s Ledger, 1819 to 1825. (RG-5/3/2.961. Image by Petrina Jackson)

This Just In: The Maurice Lévy Collection of French Gothic

This week Nicole Bouché, Director of Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, relates the story of how a major new acquisition came to U.Va.:

Maurice Lévy in his Toulouse study, seated before the glass-front bookcase containing his French Gothic collection.

“I have now reached a time in life where one inevitably ponders over the fate of the books one may have had the good fortune to collect over the years.”  —Maurice Lévy

Serendipity often plays a role in building great library collections, and a chance encounter between an institution and a scholar can yield an extraordinary and wholly unanticipated legacy years, sometimes decades, later.  Such is the story of the Maurice Lévy Collection of French Gothic, a recent bequest of over 450 rare books now housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Sometime in the early 1960s, Maurice Lévy (1929-2012), then a graduate student of English Literature at the Sorbonne in Paris, proposed to write his dissertation on the American writer, William Faulkner.  “Ah, but we don’t write dissertations on living authors” was the (predictable) reply from the French academy.

Instead, the young scholar was assigned to write about English gothic literature. With the help of a summer fellowship Lévy found his way to U.Va., where he spent three months immersed in an intensive study of the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction, among the world’s finest collections on the gothic genre. Lévy’s dissertation, Le Roman “Gothique” Anglais, 1764-1824, became a standard source and helped to revive scholarly interest in the field, and Lévy became a recognized authority on the gothic genre. Maurice’s final work, a scholarly edition of Matthew Gregory Lewis’ classic gothic tale, The Monk, was published posthumously in 2012.

Maurice Lévy’s doctoral dissertation, based in part on research done with U.Va.’s Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction.

At the end of his fellowship, Lévy returned to France, never to return to Charlottesville, but with fond memories of his summer on Grounds. By his own account, he was never again in contact with the U.Va. Library, or with the Rare Book Department staff that had been so welcoming and helpful during his stay.

Jump forward several decades:  Lévy, now an emeritus professor of the Université de Toulouse, “pondered” what do with the treasured collection of French editions of gothic novels that he had painstakingly assembled.  An American colleague recalled how Maurice frequently spoke with deep appreciation of his summer spent in Charlottesville. Might U.Va. be a possibility?  And thus, in the fall of 2009, an e-mail arrived in Special Collections from an “unknown” French scholar, inquiring whether the library might perhaps be interested in acquiring his collection.

most of them first or early editions: about 60 titles, representing something like 200-250 volumes …. which compose, literally speaking, the French side of the same literary movement and could perhaps be considered by future researchers as a helpful complement, however modest and limited in size, of the prestigious Sadleir-Black collection.

I am currently looking for a home for this collection, which, although relatively modest in size when compared to others, has the advantage of illustrating the extraordinary vogue of the “roman noir” during the French Revolutionary period, and of including volumes which offer the distinctive feature (not shared by corresponding English volumes) of being individually illustrated with frontispieces by (most of them) reputed engravers. To pay homage to their talent, I published Images de Roman Noir in 1973 [Paris, Losfeld].

Should you be interested in this donation, I would take the necessary legal steps to ensure that they eventually come into your possession after my demise, so that they may be made available to future students.

If, on the occasion of a visit to France, you wished to inspect the books, you would be very welcome to do so.

Lévy’s letter included a detailed title list. We were instantly intrigued, and our interest was quickly echoed by members of the English and French faculty. Whatever the likely costs (not to mention bureaucratic hassles) associated with shipping a large antiquarian book collection from overseas, this offer clearly merited serious consideration.  A site visit was definitely in order.  Happily, I had already planned a visit to France; a detour to spend a few days in Toulouse with Professor Lévy and his wife, Ellen (an American) was easily added to the schedule.  Professor Lévy would meet me at the train station in Toulouse, where I would recognize him by the sign (“GOTHIC”) that he would be carrying.

As we conversed on our first evening together at the Lévy home, warm memories of Charlottesville, surrounded by the riches of the Sadleir-Black Collection and the gracious hospitality of then Rare Book Librarian John Cook Wyllie and his colleagues, were still vivid in Maurice’s mind.  It took very little time to confirm our interest in accepting the Lévy collection. And so we spent two enjoyable days reviewing and inventorying a seemingly endless stream of compact little volumes from the late 18th and early 19th century, almost all in their original, often quite striking French bindings.

“Oh, the horror!” groan the sagging shelves of Maurice Lévy’s bookcase.

The large, glass fronted, wooden book cabinet in which they were stored occupied an entire wall of his study. It was tightly packed two, sometimes three, rows deep, and its thick wooden shelves were so full that they bowed at the center, giving the impression that the entire bookcase was weighed down by the burden of keeping these precious volumes safe from harm.

Maurice removed each work as though he were encountering an old friend. He would pause for a moment to recall the circumstances of their first acquaintance: when, from whom, and where had he acquired the title? What drew them together, and what special significance justified the volume’s retention and inclusion in the “special” bookcase?  After a moment’s quiet reflection, Maurice would “introduce” the book to me, and we would add it to our growing list of titles destined for Virginia.

As our work progressed, it became clear that Maurice’s collection of French gothic accounted for only a small portion of the overtaxed bookcase’s contents. The remaining titles, he explained, were not his “French gothic collection” and would no doubt eventually find a home in France.  There was neither time (nor encouragement) to explore these volumes: Maurice, after all, was still consulting his library for ongoing research.

I devoted a return visit in 2011 to assessing Maurice’s extensive reference library on the gothic. No further reference was made to the other, intriguing “old” volumes, which remained undisturbed in the bookcase. However, Maurice had decided that it was nearly time to see the French gothics safely installed at U.Va.  We therefore said our good-byes with the understanding that I would return the following summer to oversee packing and shipment. Tragically, Maurice did not live to see the final transfer of his collection to U.Va.  He succumbed to a long illness only weeks before my return to Toulouse in the summer of 2012. It remained for his widow, Ellen, his children, and the U.Va. Library to follow through on the terms of Maurice’s bequest.

But there was a new twist.  Shortly before his death, as Maurice still had not arranged for the disposition of the remaining rare books in the old bookcase, his wife Ellen asked him about them. What should she do with them? “Offer them first to Virginia,” was his reply.  And so she did. It was an interesting prospect, but just what books were they? Ellen could tell me little, occupied as she was with other family and personal matters. And so I arrived in Toulouse late last July to arrange for the final packing and shipment of the ca. 250 volumes in the Lévy French gothic collection, and to ascertain which, if any, of the remaining books might be of interest to the U.Va. Library.

What I encountered was a revelation and delight!  As I made my way systematically through the bookcase, a pattern slowly but unmistakably emerged.  This was not a miscellaneous assortment of old books, but a complementary collection of rare (some extremely rare) and early works of gothic literature, many in  English, augmented by various 18th-and 19th-century source materials used and cited in Maurice’s scholarly writings.  The supplementary material included such works as Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Idea of the Sublime and the Beautiful (London, 1801), and Edward Mangin’s An Essay on Light Reading, as it May be Supposed to Influence Moral Conduct and Literary Taste (London, 1808). Maurice’s copy of the Dictionnaire royal françois-anglois, et anglois-françois (London, 1773) would have been an invaluable resource for study of translations, and then there was L’Art de former les jardins modernes; ou l’art des jardins anglois (Paris, 1771). What gothic novel doesn’t have a garden as a significant “setting”!

We were delighted by the new discoveries, and the possibilities that this expanded universe of resources would offer to students of gothic and related themes. It was quickly decided that virtually the entire contents of the bookcase would be packed and shipped to Charlottesville.  In due course, and with only the usual customs and other delays, the collection arrived last fall at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, where it now waits patiently in the cataloging queue.

Special Collections staff unload the Maurice Lévy French Gothic collection, October 9, 2012.

The Lévy family, for their part, was delighted and relieved to see Maurice’s treasured “rare book cabinet” transferred virtually intact to its new and permanent home at U. Va., where it will be consulted by future generations of students and scholars of the “gothic,” and serve as a permanent tribute to Maurice’s life and career as a scholar, teacher, and mentor.  Nothing, they felt, would have pleased Maurice more. And like many other collections “under Grounds,” the Lévy collection also serves as an instructive reminder of how great library collections may be built, to a significant degree, by the cumulative legacies of chance encounters.

(A future posting will feature more highlights from the Lévy collection.)

The Maurice Lévy French Gothic collection as it looks today, under Grounds.