The Updike Autograph Collection Is Now Open For Use

(The following post is contributed by Ramon Cartwright, a RISD graduate and one of our fantastic volunteers. Ramon recently finished processing a collection of over 800 important and wide-ranging manuscript items. Items from the collection have been mentioned on this blog before (here, here, here and here, for instance) but this is the first time the collection has been fully listed online. Upcoming posts will highlight other items from the collection and conservation efforts to preserve it.)

The processing of the Daniel Berkeley Updike Autograph Collection has been completed. Although there is evidence that the collection was initially comprised of New England names, the collection has now grown to reflect a more diverse grouping. A selection of the material, much of which had been culled from the correspondence and papers of Wilkins Updike, includes the names of men involved in politics. Eleven presidential signatures are included in the collection. Also included within the miscellany is a letter from Edgar Rice Burroughs, a poetic excerpt from Sarah Helen Whitman, and a series of fervid letters from a Union soldier to his parents.

During the processing of the Daniel Berkeley Updike Autograph Collection I encountered a 12 page manuscript by Agnes Repplier (1855-1950), titled “What Pessimism Is.” Repplier was a Philadelphia born essayist, biographer and occasional poet published regularly within the pages of The Atlantic Monthly. Her numerous essays were also published in Life, Harper’s, Monthly Magazine, The New Republic, McClure’s, and The Yale Review. “What Pessimism Is” expands upon and clarifies Repplier’s criticism of the poetry of Robert Browning. In an earlier analysis, also published in The Atlantic Monthly, Repplier had classified Browning’s poetry as “of the pessimistic order.” A controversy ensued. Browning enthusiasts found fault with the criticism and surmised that Repplier had failed to grasp Browning’s meaning. “What Pessimism Is,” offers her defense of the initial appraisal using examples of the poet’s works. The essay was published in The Atlantic Monthly Vol. LXII, 1888. Below the reader will find the first four pages of the manuscript. The pages illuminate the background to the article’s origin. Her wit and erudition, for which she had been known, are evinced in these first few pages.

Also included in the Updike Autograph Collection is a leaf from Henry David Thoreau’s essay “October, or Autumnal Tints.”  Originally published in the October 1862 Atlantic Monthly, the essay offers Thoreau’s extended meditation on the changing color of New England autumnal foliage. Among the tints that Thoreau focuses upon, the reader will find poetic descriptions of Sarsaparilla, Pokeweed, Red Maple, the Elm, Scarlet Oak, and more. The brief explication on each tint is presented in the order in which the brightest colors are displayed. The manuscript focuses on ripeness, as it is evinced in the brighter hue flowers assume prior to falling. The extract includes passages that were later revised prior to publication.  The leaf is float mounted on an 8 3/4 x 10 1/4 sheet of paper.


Happy 150th, Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton, the author of Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence and quite a few other classic works of fiction, would turn 150 today. Wharton was born in New York on the 24th of January, 1862. If you happen to find yourself in the Lenox, MA area tomorrow, you can celebrate at The Mount, the home Wharton designed for herself.

Wharton’s presence is felt here at the Providence Public Library because of her connection to not one, but two of our collections:

Edith Wetmore is better known for her terrific collection of children’s books, but she left the library quite a few amazing books intended for older readers as well. Here’s an image from one, a copy of the first edition of Ethan Frome. It captures the relationship between the two Ediths in what is one of my favorite author inscriptions:

"To Edith the reader. (I hope!) From her old friend Edith, the writer of Ethan Frome."

While Wharton and Wetmore interacted as author and reader, Wharton and Daniel Berkeley Updike had an extensive and long-lasting author-printer relationship. Udpike described her as essential to the success of his Merrymount Press:

“The Press has been fortunate in its friends, but never more so than in the friendship of Mrs. Wharton…. To Mrs., Wharton’s thoughtful act the Press owed not merely the prestige of printing her books, but also the printing of many other books for Scribners…”*

Among Wharton’s books printed by Merrymount Press were The Greater Inclination, The Touchstone, Crucial Instances, The Valley of Decision, Sanctuary and Madame de Treymes.The letter below from Wharton to Updike offers an example of their personal and professional lives entwined:

"Is there any chance of your being in New York ... I want to capture you for lunch or dinner."


"When are my proofs coming??"

* From page 21 of “Notes on the Press and It’s Work” in Updike: American Printer, and his Merrymount Press (New York: The American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1947). Originally published in Notes on the Merrymount Press and its Work (1934).

Tillykke med fødselsdagen, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 200th birthday is rapidly approaching: Stowe was born on June 14th, 1811. An indication of Stowe’s tremendous worldwide popularity is the number of translations of her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin into foreign languages. To celebrate Stowe’s bicentennial, Janaya Kizzie has assembled a list of the many foreign language copies of the novel in our Harris Collection on the Civil War and Slavery and put together an online exhibition of a few of the decorative covers they feature.

View the exhibition at:

Here’s an image of Stowe from a large (about 20 inches tall) lithograph print produced in 1853: