Merton Artifacts - "one of the finest [privately owned] spiritual literary archives of the 20th century"
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An interesting presentation copy:
The Spirituality of the Compassion (1977) by Henri Nouwen, Douglas Morrison, and Donald McNeill - This is a buckram bound mimeographed typescript manuscript. Autographed presentation copy from Henri Nouwen to the late Colin Williams (Dean Yale Divinity, etc.). It begins with a typed letter: "We invite you to remain part of our ongoing work together by any comment you might have on this text, by any suggestion you can make for our further work, and by any ideas you would like to share with us." Many years in the works; eventually published as Compassion - Reflections on the Christian Life (2006).
This book is the 38th signed book by Henri Nouwen housed in the merton-artifacts collection.
An important addition to the Merton-artifacts collection: a group of over 30 original mimeographs, offprints, and periodicals purchased from Merton bookdealer Jeannette Cantrell who received them from monk of Gethsemani Tom Zele. This group of items was obtained by Zele during the 1960s while living alongside Merton at the monastery.
A partial selection from this lot includes:
Mimeograph poems (“The Night of Destiny”);
Mimeograph articles (“The Future of Monasticism”, “The Meaning of Malcolm X”, “The Hot Summer of Sixty Seven”, “Openness and Cloister”, “The Other Side of Despair / Notes on Christian Existentialism”);
Mimeograph reviews (“War and Vision / The Autobiography of a Crow Indian”);
Mimeograph translations (“Found Macaronic Antipoem”);
Offprints (“The Zen Koan”, “Ecumenism and Monastic Renewal”);
Periodicals (“The Root of War” in Pax Bulletin);
Mimeograph conference notes (“Conference on Prayer” for Conference of Religious of India, Feast of Christ the King, 1968, Calcutta);
Mimeograph book sections (“A Christian Looks at Zen / Introduction to ‘The Golden Age of Zen’” by John C.H. Wu); and
Mimeograph future book titles (“Cold War Letters”, “Clement of Alexandria”)
Added recently to the Merton-artifacts collection: a hard cover copy, in dust jacket, of Merton's first book of poetry, Thirty Poems (New Directions, 1944). This book was inscribed by Merton's friend, Robert Lax, to an acquaintance.
The book itself is not the most scarce of Merton titles, but its association with Lax makes it special; an affirmation from a fellow writer and long-time friend.
A very rare find has been added to the collection this month:
It is a book titled The Alaskan Journal of Thomas Merton  and is a numbered (1 of only 4), limited, deluxe publisher's presentation copy - up until now seemingly unknown by Merton bibliographers.
It was printed by Sandra Reese at Turkey Press from Spectrum type on Hayle paper. Hand sewn at the press and bound into boards covered with original Scholco and Japanese linen and housed in a slipcase which is covered by a relief print of a photograph taken by Merton while in Alaska.
This book came from the collection of poet, publisher, designer, photographer and essayist Jonathan Williams. Williams and Merton were acquaintances and regularly corresponded between 1965-1971. Williams visited Gethsemani Abbey in January of 1967 with Guy Davenport and Ralph Eugene Meatyard. A wonderful photographic portrait of Merton (taken by Williams) can be found in William's book "Portrait Photographs". Another nice association is that Turkey Press also published a book of Jonathan Williams.
An interesting addition: An unbound copy of Ox Mountain Parable of Meng Tzu (1960) – introduction by Thomas Merton.
It is consists of two folded sheets (11x17) laid into a cloth, custom fitted, latched book box. It is surmised that these pages were sent by Victor Hammer (Stamperia del Santuccio) to one of his many book binding friends for them to case/bind for themselves - owing to the sheets being unbound (usually sewn and bound), and due to its low printing number (#5/100).
A couple of signed Dorothy Day books have been added recently.
One, “The Long Loneliness” (1952) was confirmed by Dorothy Day's granddaughter (in 2015) to have been signed by Dorothy Day and likely also by Forster Batterham, Day's love interest of the mid to late 1920's. It is speculated to perhaps have been a gift from Day to Forster.
The other, “From Union Square to Rome” (1938) came with the inscription, "To everybody at the farm, fellow workers in the apostolate. With much love, Dorothy Day".
A unique discovery, with a Merton connection:
A lovely small illuminated folder "He Abideth - From a XIV Century Manuscript"  published by Stanbrook Abbey Press and illuminated by Mararet Adams, with text provided by Thomas Merton. Full text reads "He abideth patiently He forgiveth easily He understandeth mercifully He forgetteth utterly"
Relationship of this printing to Thomas Merton: Dame Marcella van Bruyn (a Benedictine nun of Stanbrook Abbey in England) first contacted Merton through the encouragement of Jacques Maritain. Stanbrook Press published poems of Raïssa Maritain as well as some of Merton's works, including his translations of a prayer of Cassiodorus and a letter by Guigo the Carthusian. Merton provided this text to Stanbrook Abbey Press and cited it was "From a fourteenth century manuscript". (Merton info retireved from the Thomas Merton Centre website - http://merton.org/).
Only 2 confirmed WorldCat listings.
A most interesting Merton pamphlet addition:
The Pope of the Virgin Mary , (15 pages) published "with ecclesiastical approval" by The Marion Library, University of Dayton, Ohio.
This format is exceedingly rare with only 2 others located on the WoldCat database of libraries.
An extraordinary recent find -
Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1956), published by Victor Hammer's Stamperia del Santuccio.
This is a prayer printed on one sheet, French-folded, to make four printable pages (8 total). This copy is inscribed by Thomas Merton: "Very gratefully and with the promise of special prayers in Christ Our Lord/ Fr. Louis Merton." OCLC/Worldcat locates only two confirmed copies, none signed. According to a note by Carolyn Reading Hammer, wife of Victor Hammer, 54 copies were printed - of which Merton received 50 copies and Hammer retained four (info retrieved by Woldcat documentation). An exceptionally uncommon Merton item.
March 2014 -
A very rare Merton book was added to this collection recently - arguably the rarest of all, with only 5 presentation copies printed. Here are the details:
Waters of Silence (1950) published by Theodore Brun - limited deluxe presentation edition (number IV of V).
Details: Leather, no jacket (as issued). A very rare book - the "Limited de Luxe Edition is published by special arrangement with Messrs. Hollis & Carter, Ltd., and appears simultaneously with their first edition." 120 copies of the deluxe edition were printed (of which 50 copies were for Book Club members only) plus an additional 5 copies , numbered I to V , were struck off as presentation and reference copies. This is one of those presentation copies (number IV).
December 2013 -
I received the following inscription in a Merton related periodical from a former editor of a successful national quarterly literary journal (to which Merton had been a contributor in the 1960's):
"To Albert Romkema,
A true voyager who has walked the walk (yes sir, big time) and who has created one of the finest spiritual literary archives of the 20th century. May all your future voyages of the mind and spirit be joyous ones; they will extend our common humanity.
June 2013 -
I have had an article published in The Merton Seasonal: A Quarterly Review (in the Summer 2013 issue, Vol. 38, No.2). It is titled, “Be What You Are: Thomas Merton on Vocation”. The table of contents can be viewed at http://merton.org/ITMS/Seasonal/seasonal2013.aspx
December 2012 -
This past year marked a shift of focus in the composition of the collection. Whereas over the past number of years I have mostly limited my search to Merton items alone, I have recently begun adding items from friends, family members, acquaintances and contemporaries of Merton. This has surely been a worthwhile venture for future development as some wonderfully scarce items are now archived going forward (see below and also the family/friends selection on the website).
I was asked recently what my long-term hopes are for the collection. It is a good question, and one which I consider often. Here was my response:
“As far as my long term objectives with this collection – I am not sure exactly, outside of affirming that creating this collection has always felt like it had some greater purpose. I certainly hope to keep the collection together as a unit, and I hope it can eventually go somewhere that will have the same vision of archiving and display as I do. There are a few good fits that I can see potentially working out in the future, but it will depend on their priorities as well. In this regard, I am 'living the questions', as Rilke would say.”
One thing that I have not kept up with this year has been keeping my database up-to-date, something I am now working diligently on. The benefit of entering a whole years collecting into my database at once is in getting a broader view of how things are developing. Here is sample of what has been added this past year:
1. Poetry and the Contemplative Life: A Reprisal by Merton (Galley proofs) – Unbound long galleys. 9 leaves printed rectos only. Note: "Duplicate Set: Do Not Return This Lot" affixed. Long galleys for this chapter consisting of a previously published essay with the text re-considered, and a long author's note, as it appeared in "A Thomas Merton Reader".
2. Landscape, Prophet and Wild-Dog (1968) The portfolio has six etchings which were drawn and hand-printed on d'Arches paper by Don Cortese, Limited edition – 1 of 25. Signed by Don Cortese. This is the smallest print edition of any Merton
3. What Ought I to do? Sayings of the Desert Fathers from the Collection of Migne's Latin Patrology (1959); signed by Merton; Opus XV; #27 of 50 numbered copies printed in red and black on Japanese Hosho paper in in Hammer's American Uncial. The elaborate dust jacket has text printed in Latin with a two- color, 9-line, initial letter 'E' cut in brass by Victor Hammer. Prospectus laid in.
4. Redeeming the Time (1966); this item was inscribed by Merton to Bruno Schlesinger who was a professor at St. Mary's College in Indiana. Merton and Schlesinger correspondences are published in Hidden Ground of Love. This item was purchased from Schlesinger's daughter, Mary (whose hand-written note accompanies the book).
5. Camaldolese Way (1957); this item has not been noted by bibliographers and is not listed as part of any library collection (WoldCat). From "Vita nel silencio" (Living in silence). Similar to the English text "Silent Life" (1957) but with textual variations and 12 new images.
6. Thirty Poems - A fine copy of Merton’s first book in an equally fine dust jacket.
7. Five original copies of the Catholic Worker from the 1960’s – each with Merton
content (and a few with Dorothy Day content).
8. Over 50 original, hand-written letters by perhaps Merton’s closest friend, Robert Lax, to another Merton friend Jim Forest.
ASIDE: this is my favourite development from this past year - my interest in Lax and his writing has grown exponentially.
9. Two original hand-written letters by Robert Lax to the publisher of Voyages
periodical, William Claire.
10. Six books inscribed/signed by Henri Nouwen. Now the collection has 19 signed items by Nouwen plus one press photo.
11. One original ink drawing by renowned artist, friend and classmate of Merton, Ad Reinhardt.
12. Two signed books by Dorothy day.
13. Two signed books by Catherine Doherty (now 3 in total).
14. One signed book by Caryll Houselander.
15. One signed original poem by Danielle Berrigan.
16. Original 1938 Columbia Commencement Program. In this item Merton is mentioned as having conferred a degree of the Bachelor of Arts from Columbia College (Noted to be February 1938). Note here too is Merton's friend Robert Lax mentioned as graduating and also recipient of the Van Renesselaer Prize (best example of English Lyric Verse). It is interesting that Merton's graduation yearbook is 1937 while is only listed in the commencement proceedings of 1938.
Thanks to all who have supported my vision for this venture. As in all such projects there is meaning created in the community it helps form.