Tag Archives: lisa unger baskin collection

Helen Allingham in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Library Specialist.

The materials in the Lisa Unger Baskin collection celebrate more than five centuries of women’s work. One of the highlights of describing and cataloging these collections is the remarkable talent that is often showcased by these women.

For example, we received four sketchbooks from English watercolorist and illustrator Helen Paterson Allingham.

Helen Allingham, born near Derbyshire, England in 1848, studied at the Birmingham School of Design and the Royal Academy School in London.  In fact, she was the niece of the first female student at the Royal Academy School, Laura Herford. Allingham began her career as an illustrator, but eventually became well known for her watercolors, usually of cottages. Her renderings often showed so much detail that they have been studied by architects interested in the construction of these buildings.

Following her studies, she supported her widowed mother with her work as an illustrator for publications like The Graphic. She was a founding staff member of the newspaper, and the only woman on staff. Her other work includes the original illustrations for Thomas Harding’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd.

She married William Allingham, an Irish poet and editor, in 1874. After their marriage, Helen shifted her career focus to watercolor painting. Her work was widely praised by the art community in London. She had paintings accepted at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and was eventually the first woman granted full membership to the Royal Watercolour Society. After the family’s move to Surrey in the early 1880s, Allingham began painting the cottages for which she is best known.

The collection includes sketches and drawings made in graphite, watercolor, and pen and ink, dating from 1868-1916.

Subjects in the scrapbooks from the LUB collection are varied, and include English cottages and buildings, architectural features, sailboats and coastal scenes, figures, landscapes, and botanical items. Essentially, Allingham drew or painted anything that she came across during her travels, from a simple pile of rope to a vestry door. Many of the images are only about two inches wide.

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Detail of window, with Allingham’s notes on construction.
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Upton Bales[?] cottage, in graphite.
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Pile of rope found in Lymm, England, in 1874, graphite.
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Sailing vessel in watercolor.
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Fishing basket in St. Andrews, England, graphite.
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Crab found in St. Andrews, England, graphite.
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Vestry door at St. Mary’s Church, Leicester, England, graphite.

Stop by and spend some time with these scrapbooks!

Lois Waisbrooker in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Photo May 20, 2 38 19 PMThe Lisa Unger Baskin Collection is filled with well-known names and gorgeous examples of books, but as I was looking through the recently cataloged books from the collection, I was excited to see three rather plain-looking books written by Lois Waisbrooker in the late-nineteenth century: Helen Harlow’s Vow, Perfect Motherhood, and My Century Plant. Never heard of them? Don’t worry, that’s kind of the point. Back in college as a history major, I studied Waisbrooker, and while she was never particularly well-known, she’s a fascinating example of how writing and books impacted women’s lives in the nineteenth century.

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Portrait of Waisbrooker from Helen Harlow’s Vow

Historian Joanne Passet has done an excellent job tracing Waisbrooker’s life in her book Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women’s Equality. Waisbrooker was born to a poor family in Upstate New York in 1826, and by age twenty she had been pressured into a marriage she didn’t want after getting pregnant, widowed, and forced to place her two children with other families as she didn’t have the economic means to care for them.1 These early experiences shaped Waisbrooker’s political views and her work: she was a spiritualist and then became interested in free love and sex radicalism.

Without a well-off family to fall back on, Waisbrooker struggled to make a life that allowed her to commit fully to advancing the cause of free love and women’s right to self-determination.2 It was never easy for Waisbrooker, but through writing she was at least able to eke out a living. These are just three of more than a dozen books she published, in addition to number of periodicals she founded or helped edit.

"I demand unqualified freedom for women as woman, and that all institutions of society be adjusted to such freedom"
Title page of My Century Plant. Waisbrooker founded Independent Publishing Company herself after struggling to find publishers willing to publish books dealing with sex.

Of course, the life Waisbrooker forged was possible because there were readers eager to read what she wrote. Waisbrooker’s writings validated their own experiences and  helped these women connect with a community of people whose views aligned with their own. In her analysis of readers’ letters published in the newspapers and journals founded or edited by Waisbrooker, Passet found that most of the women writing were working-class and rural, commonly from Midwestern and Western states.3 Isolated in their home communities, Waisbrooker’s work gave these women room to discuss topics like marital rape and women’s sexual fulfillment, literature that resonated with their experiences, and a way to imagine new economic and social models.4

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Newspaper clipping about Waisbrooker’s arrest on obscenity charges that was pasted in Perfect Motherhood

We get a glimpse of Waisbrooker’s readers in this copy of Perfect Motherhood: Or Mabel Raymond’s Resolve. A previous owner has pasted in a newspaper clipping describing Waisbrooker’s arrest in Topeka, Kansas “on the charging of sending obscene material through the mails.” This suggests the owner was not just a casual reader, but someone who followed Waisbrooker’s career and thought this clipping worth saving with Waisbrooker’s writings.

Having Waisbrooker’s works along side books like Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile speaks to the depth of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and to the variety of ways women have engaged with books and the written word. For Waisbrooker these books were a means of survival, for both herself financially and the ideas she championed. For women readers, these books offered a vital intellectual connection with like-minded women and a path towards their own sexual and economic liberation.

Footnotes
1. Joanne Passet, Sex Radicals and The Quest for Women’s Equality (Urbana,Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 112-113.
2. Ibid., 116.
3. Ibid., 47, 55, 119.
4. Ibid., 153.

Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian

Adding to our collection of Movable Books

With constant access to moving images via your cell phone, laptop, or tablet, I expect it is difficult to imagine when even simple movement in a book was revolutionary. But just image the impact of being able to manipulate part of a page in a book in the 18th century!

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It is difficult to know less about an author!

The Rubenstein’s History of Medicine Collection features many early movable books, which were usually intended for scholars. These were generally the “turn-up” style, often used by students of anatomy, where separate leaves, each featuring a different section of the body, were hinged together and attached to a page. One of the best examples, De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome was printed by Andreas Vesalius in 1543.

It wasn’t until the late 1700s that movable books intended for entertainment were produced, usually for children. In 1765, Robert Sayer created a movable book that involved lifting a flap. Ann Montanaro explains the construction of these books in her “A Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books:”

[the] books were composed of single, printed sheets folded perpendicularly into four. Hinged at the top and bottom of each fold, the picture was cut through horizontally across the center to make two flaps that could be opened up or down. When raised, the pages disclosed another hidden picture underneath, each having a few lines of verse.

These books quickly became popular and had different names based on their content or composition of illustrations, including “metamorphoses,” “harlequinades,” as well as the unfortunately-named “toilet books.”

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My favorite page features a lion that transforms into a griffin, that transforms into an eagle.

As part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, we recently received one of these metamorphoses books, handmade by Elizabeth Winspear in 1799. Unfortunately, that is the limit of all we know about her. The book features just four pages in full color with accompanying verse, each page with two flaps that reveal a new drawing underneath, in stages. The verses include instructions for how to move the flaps. One reads: The Lion Roaring from his Den / with porpose [sic] for to rainge [sic] / He’s turn’d into another shape / Turn down & see the sight so strange

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The Lion Roaring from his Den / with porpose [sic] for to rainge [sic] / He’s turn’d into another shape / Turn down & see the sight so strange
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Each fold of the page must be carefully calculated.

I don’t want to give everything away! There is immense entertainment value to this little item. Initially we are introduced to Adam, whose Eve is not what one has come to expect. However, it is clear that Winspear also intended some instruction or moral training to occur by reading this book, for all does not end well, despite a character’s obtaining gold and silver. The piece ends as a cautionary tale.

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The eagle holds its prey, an unfortunate infant, in its grasp.

Stop by and see this new gem in our collection!

Contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original cataloger and archivist.

Women at Work: the Nuns of the Ripoli Press

There are many “firsts” in the Lisa Unger Baskin collection, and this early work is one of my favorites. It is one of the first books we know to be typeset by women.

Incominciano Le uite de Pontefici et imperadori Romani [Lives of the Popes and Roman Emperors] was published by the press at the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli in Florence in 1478. The Baskin Collection includes two copies. They are incunabula [cradle books], a term traditionally used to indicate works that were printed before 1501, when printing technology was still in its infancy.

Over the course of nine years (1476-1484), the Ripoli press issued around one hundred different titles, half of which were secular.  The convent’s diario (daybook) notes that the Dominican sisters received modest wages for their labor, which were contributed to a common fund to support the convent.

The nuns work as typesetters was in keeping with the order’s rules. The Dominican constitutions directed the nuns to copy manuscripts for religious use, and the new technology of typesetting accomplished the same end. I have to wonder what it was like for them to literally retool with this new technology.

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Rubrication on copy 1

The first copy in the Baskin Collection is complete and is decorated with hand-colored initials called rubrication. Copy two lacks the first six leaves and has not yet had the decorative initials added. It is untrimmed, and over the years comments have been added in several hands and inks. Most interesting is the extensive marginalia around the entry for the (most likely) fictional Pope Joan with its long manicule and notation “papa femina.”

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“papa feminina” marginalia on copy 2
RipoliNuns-handwritten section header
Handwritten section header
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Spine of copy 2

I look forward to sharing these volumes with students and visitors. If you run your fingers gently over the pages, you can feel the impressions made by the thousands of pieces of moveable type the nuns of Ripoli carefully set by hand.

To learn more about the work of the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli consult:

Post contributed by Naomi Nelson, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian and Director, Rubenstein Library.

Virginia Woolf: Writing Surfaces and Writing Depths, March 3

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Virginia Woolf’s custom-made writing desk, recently acquired as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, is currently on display in the Rubenstein Library’s Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery.

What: Virginia Woolf: Writing Surfaces and Writing Depths, with Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins
Date: Thursday, March 3 Time: 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Where: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library

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Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins

Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins is a professor in the department of English and Creative Writing at Cornell College and past president of the International Virginia Woolf Society. She will give a talk on the various writing surfaces used by Woolf throughout her life, including the desk now on display in the Rubenstein Library that was acquired as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection. How did this desk shape the apprenticeship of Virginia Stephen into a writer? What did she write at this desk? How did it launch her career? In addition to the desk at Duke, Hankins will discuss Woolf’s decorated writing table in Cassis, as well as an overstuffed chair and lap board in a storage room at Hogarth Press and in Woolf’s writing shed. Along the way, she will consider how Woolf’s desk selections demonstrate a nuanced negotiation of gender performance and the writing profession as she crafted an innovative writing space through standing/walking/and shabby chic desk strategies.

Free and open to the public. Reception to follow.

Skip the Valentine’s Day Chocolates, I’d Like a Kelmscott Press Book in a Silk Pouch

Photo Feb 11, 4 42 10 PMThis beautiful copy of Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile, part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, was given by May Morris to her beloved, John Quinn, in 1910. It was printed in 1894 at Kelmscott Press, which May Morris’s father William Morris founded. The green morocco leather  binding with delicate gold tooling is the work of May Morris’s friend Katharine Adams.

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On its own this would have been an touching gift for any book lover, as Quinn, a patron and collector of art and literature, certainly was. But  Morris went beyond that.  An accomplished needlework artist, Morris created a detailed hand-stitched silk book pouch to go along with Amis and Amile. The centerpiece of her work features a kneeling couple with angels flying above in a sunbeam lit sky. It is surrounded by foliage and birds, with hearts sewn along the top. The final details are seed pearls and glass beads at the corners. The back of the pouch is signed in stitching by Morris with a small “M” in a circle.

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Sadly, I cannot tell you that this is a love story has a happy ending. It was a rather one-sided relationship. Whatever romantic interest Quinn had in Morris quickly cooled, despite a gift like this and the loving letters she wrote him. For more insight into Morris and Quinn’s relationship, see On Poetry, Painting, and Politics: The Letters of May Morris and John Quinn edited by Janis Londraville (1997), or Londraville’s article “No Idle Singers of Empty Days: The Unpublished Correspondence of John Quinn and May Morris” in Journal of Modern Literature (Summer, 1994).

Post Contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian.

Discovery at the Rubenstein: Italian-Language Version of Edith Wharton’s Short Story, “The Duchess at Prayer”

As a Humanities Writ Large Fellow at Duke this year, one of my goals was to explore the archives in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, extending work I had done at the Kislak Center for Special Collections at University of Pennsylvania creating archival research exercises for undergraduate humanities students.  My scholarship focuses on late nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American women’s writing, so I knew that exploring the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, currently undergoing processing, would be especially exciting. But little did I know that I would uncover a genuine “find”—an Italian-language typescript of a short story by Edith Wharton, translated by the author and featuring corrections in her own hand.

The typescript, the only piece in the collection by Wharton, is a translation from English into Italian of Wharton’s story “The Duchess at Prayer” (“La Duchessa in Preghiera”). The textual history of this story is complicated: Wharton first published the story in Scribner’s in August 1900, where it featured illustrations by Maxfield Parrish (full text at hathitrust.org)  and then republished it in the short story volume, Crucial Instances  (1901). The translation in the Rubenstein appears to have been made after the 1900 publication. Drawing on Honoré de Balzac’s “La Grande Bretèche” (1831) and likely Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” (1842), Wharton’s tale recounts the story of a seventeenth-century Italian Duchess whose cruel husband discovers her adulterous affair. To taunt and threaten his wife, the Duke gives her a Bernini statue crafted in her image, and, as Emily Orlando has argued in Edith Wharton and the Visual Arts, in the conclusion of the tale, the woman “becomes a statue chiseled in marble at her husband’s command” (45). The typescript in the Rubenstein appears to be a word-for-word Italian translation of the Scribner’s version, though that will have to be confirmed against the version of the short story in Crucial Instances.

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Figure 1

“La Duchessa in Preghiera” attests to Wharton’s linguistic expertise. The author, who spent much of her childhood in Italy and adulthood in France, was fluent in multiple languages. There’s no evidence that the story was published in Italian periodicals of the day; rather, it seems most likely that Wharton translated the story as a language exercise. In this translation, Wharton’s sophisticated Italian reveals her careful self-education; for example, she uses the passato remoto to refer to events in the distant historical past, where a less experienced Italian writer might use the passato prossimo. On the typescript pages, we see how Wharton added accent marks that were not available on English-language typewriters at the time (figure 1; no Microsoft Word symbols here!). Wharton used her own work as a source of language practice several times during her career: she first conceived the novella Ethan Frome as a French exercise and translated some of her stories from English to French for publication in French periodicals. The typescript in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection reveals her immersion in Italian culture as well her mastery of two languages. Just a year after the publication of Crucial Instances, she would publish her first novel, The Valley of Decision (1902), set in eighteenth-century Italy.

While “La Duchessa in Preghiera” deepens our appreciation of Wharton’s multilingualism, it also advances the scholarly record in another way. I am one of a number of volume editors contributing to The Complete Works of Edith Wharton, to be published by Oxford University Press. To date, there is no authoritative scholarly edition of Wharton’s complete works. In the process of editing Wharton’s extensive corpus, volume editors must locate extant manuscripts and typescripts for all the works in their purview. “La Duchessa in Preghiera” suggests that Whartonites should expect to find her work in unexpected places.

For example, after finding the typescript in the Rubenstein, I learned that an additional copy of “La Duchessa in Preghiera” has been located in the Matilda Gay papers at the Frick Museum in New York. Matilda Gay was a friend and neighbor of Wharton’s in Paris and two women came from a similar social class in New York. The next step would be to compare the Rubenstein typescript with the version in the Frick. The existence of these translations elicits multiple questions: did Wharton share a translation with her friend, and for what purpose? Do the two versions differ in any way? What do these translations tell us not simply about the author, but about the sharing of texts between friends, two female expatriates, at a particular historical moment, grappling with life and literature in another language? As with many forays into the archives, this initial exploration of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection reminds us of how much we still have to learn.

Post Contributed by Meredith Goldsmith, Humanities Writ Large Fellow 2015-2016 (Associate Professor of English, Ursinus College)

Upcoming Talk: Scientists, Midwives, & Healers in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Date: Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library Room 153
Contact: Laura Micham, laura.m@duke.edu
RVSP (optional) via Facebook

Maria Sibylla Merian. De europische insecten. Tot Amsterdam: by J.F. Bernard, [1730].
Maria Sibylla Merian. De europische insecten. Tot
Amsterdam: by J.F. Bernard, [1730].
Join the staff of the Bingham Center as Duke History Professor Thomas Robisheaux gives a lecture on the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, highlighting his use of works by naturalist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian. The lecture is free and open to the public; light refreshments will be served.

In celebration of:

Heralding the Way to a New World: Exploring Women in Science and Medicine through the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

On display in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery from January 20th to April 1st, 2016

From the first entomologist to capture the stages of metamorphosis of the butterfly (1705) to the author who published the first comprehensive volume on contraception (1923), the women in this exhibit were pioneers in science and medicine. Whether self-trained or classically educated, they not only made groundbreaking contributions to their fields, but also helped open the way for future generations to follow in their footsteps. Despite their accomplishments, most of these women remain overlooked or under-recognized.

This exhibition highlights the stories of seven revolutionary women in science and medicine and celebrates the arrival of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, from which these materials were selected.

Sometimes it takes a village, especially the first time.

I catalog manuscript and other archival materials, the majority of which are unpublished and not described. They also cover a wide variety in type of material. Among the more exotic finds I have cataloged: a salesmen’s kit with patterns for men’s suits, musical instruments used by a jazz percussionist, feminist t-shirts, John Brown commemorative medals, and envelopes of 19-century bath and other powders.

Last Spring we acquired the Lisa Unger Baskin collection, which features five centuries of women’s history. Among the items is a work of needlepoint, a flower study, completed by Charlotte Brontë around 1840. I had never cataloged a work of needlepoint.

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When faced with an unfamiliar format, a cataloger begins by looking for similar materials cataloged by colleagues nationally, searching in WorldCat. I found only a few pieces of embroidery, usually samplers, and those did not include extensive description of the item. I was determined to provide more detail than a basic record.

Fortunately, our donor had included with the Brontë needlepoint a photocopy from a book on Brontë artwork. The page focused on a flower study Charlotte had completed in watercolors while she was still in school. It offered a description of the piece which provided the level of detail I was seeking, so I based my own approach on it. However, to move forward with this approach I needed to confirm what flowers were depicted in Charlotte’s needlepoint study.

There was no argument that the top flower is a white lily. I felt the bottom left flower was a peony, while others said it was a rose. I had no clue what the bottom right flower might be. Who to consult? I approached a colleague who hails from England, and she offered to forward my photograph of the needlepoint to her father, who is a master gardener. After consulting his references, he agreed that the bottom left flower is a peony, and determined that the unknown flower on the bottom right is probably a carnation.

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I also had to consult with Beth Doyle, head of our Conservation Services Department, regarding whether Charlotte’s needlepoint should be removed from its frame. While answering this question (no) Beth let me know the thread Charlotte used was probably wool. Beth’s mother is a master needleworker who may be able to determine what type of stitch Charlotte used.

Using all of this information, I wrote a description that provided the level of detail I was seeking, to give someone a basic mental image of the piece they would then find in our collection. However, even after I finished my initial work, one more consultation was required. My colleague, Lauren Reno, checked my catalogue record in RDA, the new cataloging standard I am applying to manuscript materials. She made several helpful enhancements.

I am very grateful for the “village” of people I can call upon in support of my work.

You can find the catalog record for the needlework here.

Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Archivist/Original Cataloger in the Technical Services Dept.

New Collection Spans Five Centuries of Women’s History

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired one of the largest and most significant private collections on women’s history, documenting the work and intellectual contributions of women from the Renaissance to the modern era.

Isotta Nogarola, humanist, 1418-1466, from Jacopo Philippo Bergomensis' De Claris Mulieribus, 1497
Isotta Nogarola, humanist, 1418-1466, from Jacopo Philippo Bergomensis’ De Claris Mulieribus, 1497

Carefully assembled over 45 years by noted bibliophile, activist and collector Lisa Unger Baskin, the collection includes more than 8,600 rare books and thousands of manuscripts, journals, ephemera and artifacts, including author Virginia Woolf’s writing desk.. Among the works are many well-known monuments of women’s history and literature, as well as lesser-known works produced by female scholars, printers, publishers, scientists, artists and political activists. Taken together, they comprise a mosaic of the ways women have been productive, creative, and socially engaged over more than 500 years. The collection will become a part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture within the Rubenstein Library.

Cabinet card sold by Sojourner Truth to support her work, 1864 Photographer is unknown
Cabinet card sold by Sojourner Truth to support her work, 1864
Photographer is unknown

The materials range in date from a 1240 manuscript documenting a respite home for women in Italy to a large collection of letters and manuscripts by the 20th-century anarchist Emma Goldman.  The majority of materials were created between the mid-15th and mid-20th centuries. Other highlights include correspondence by legendary American and English suffragists and abolitionists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst and Lucretia Mott; Harriet Beecher Stowe’s publicity blurb for Sojourner Truth’s Narrative, written in Stowe’s own hand; exquisite decorated bindings by the celebrated turn-of-the-century British binders Sarah Prideaux, Katharine Adams, and Sybil Pye; and Woolf’s writing desk, which the author designed herself.

Baskin and her late husband, the artist Leonard Baskin, were both avid book collectors. Leonard also founded The Gehenna Press, one of the preeminent American private presses of the 20th century. Lisa Unger Baskin began collecting materials on women’s history in the 1960s after attending Cornell University. She is a member of the Grolier Club, the oldest American society for bibliophiles.

“I am delighted that my collection will be available to students, scholars and the community at Duke University, a great teaching and research institution,” Baskin said. “Because of Duke’s powerful commitment to the central role of libraries and digitization in teaching, it is clear to me that my collection will be an integral part of the university in the coming years and long into the future. I trust that this new and exciting life for my books and manuscripts will help to transform and enlarge the notion of what history is about, deeply reflecting my own interests.”

Materials from the collection will be available to researchers once they have been cataloged. Some items will be on display in the renovated Rubenstein Library when it reopens to the public at the end of August 2015.

For more information about the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection visit http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/bingham/lisa-unger-baskin.