Don’t let the title get you too excited, although I’m sure there are some good stories to be told about love in the library! Most of us from back in the day (before the Internet) hold cherished memories of romance in libraries, whether it was the innocent schoolgirl crush on a boy in the public library or a lifetime partner you met in the college library; eyes gazing at one another through stacks of literature and quiet whisperings across dimly lit tables.
Many art museum libraries are treasure troves of romantic illustrated poems, amorous musings, and biographies of artists’ loves. So for this February blog I located a few items from beyond our open stacks in the Crystal Bridges Library: small but rare gems about love from our special collections and archives.
Point Lace and Diamonds, 1892, by George A. Baker, Jr. This romantic portrayal on themes of love, courtship, and commitment is illustrated with beautiful prints of watercolor paintings by Francis Day (1863-1925). Day was a well-known American figurative artist who studied at the Art Students League.
Roses and Forget-Me-Nots, 1885, by American botanical artist Susie B. Skelding (1857-1934). Beautiful chromolithographs of flowers along with touching words of poetry.
Love Sonnets, 1937, by Louis Untermeyer, with paintings by American artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969). Shahn’s illustrations express beautiful words in such favorite love sonnets as William Woodworth’s “It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free,” John Keats’s “I Cry Your Mercy-Pity-Love! -Aye, Love,” and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love Thee?” (Sonnet 43)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for right. I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.
Finally, from our collection of artist manuscripts, a signed and autographed love poem by Washington Allston (1779-1843), painter and poet:
Nay, turn not from me, love, As if thou wouldst reprove The lips that have confes’d thee; Those lips that now are mine, That breath’d my name as thine, That with a word have bless’d me. But, no – I will not pain With idle fears again The heart which thou hast given; The look that wing’d thy word Told more than ear has heard When most the tongue has striven. When, like the morning skies, Thy slowly-lifted eyes First turned their blue upon me, And from her sky look’d out Thy soul – I could not doubt For aye that I had won thee. Yet still on them to gaze, And feel their gentle rays Deep sink within my being; This grace of love – oh, no! I may not now forgo This more than outward seeing.