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:
- 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”.
- 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 publication.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Thirty Poems – A fine copy of Merton’s first book in an equally fine dust jacket.
- Five original copies of the Catholic Worker from the 1960’s – each with Merton content (and a few with Dorothy Day content).
- 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.
- Two original hand-written letters by Robert Lax to the publisher of Voyages periodical, William Claire.
- Six books inscribed/signed by Henri Nouwen. Now the collection has 19 signed items by Nouwen plus one press photo.
- One original ink drawing by renowned artist, friend and classmate of Merton, Ad Reinhardt.
- Two signed books by Dorothy day.
- Two signed books by Catherine Doherty (now 3 in total).
- One signed book by Caryll Houselander.
- One signed original poem by Danielle Berrigan.
- 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.