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Rare Books and Artist Letters Inspired by In American Waters

image of a kiosk of rare books inspired by In American Waters; image of a kiosk of rare books inspired by In American Waters; found in the Crystal Bridges Library collection

In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting, now on view at Crystal Bridges, is an exhibition that asks visitors to “discover the sea” through the works of modern and historical artists.

In support of the exhibition, the museum’s Library and Archives department at Crystal Bridges worked with Curatorial staff to choose items from our rare books and artist letters collections that correspond to the themes of In American Waters, showcasing the history, poetry, and transformative power of the ocean on American life.

image of a kiosk of rare books inspired by In American Waters; found in the Crystal Bridges Library collection

Located in the vestibule of the Library elevator, just off the Garrison Lobby, museum visitors can enjoy a display case of the following rare books and artist letters:

  • Michael J. Burns, Artist Letters & Manuscripts
  • Eliju Burnitt, Artist Letters & Manuscripts
  • Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville; illustrated by Rockwell Kent
  • Shakings: Etchings from the Naval Academy by Benjamin Park; engraved by John Andrew
  • Manual of Conchology; structural and systematic with illustrations of the species [1st series: Marine univalves] by George W. Tryon, Jr.
  • Drift from Sea Life by C. McKnight Smith

Letters and sketches detailing sea life were common in the 1800s, as many artists traveled far distances to learn, experience, and grow in their craft.

image of three sketches from Michael J. Burns; found in the Crystal Bridges Library collection

Burns’s original sketches illustrate seascapes of crew members and their maritime expeditions.

image of a letter written by Eliju Burnitt; found in the Crystal Bridges Library collection

Burnitt, an American diplomat and social activist, writes to the “editor of the union” in his letter which advertises “Ocean Penny Postage” through an image of two ships at sea during a storm.

image of a cover of the book Moby Dick by Herman Melville; found in the Crystal Bridges Library collection

In the classic novel Moby Dick, Herman Melville tells the story of a sailor and his voyage on a whaling ship. This special edition, published in 1930, includes creative and imaginative illustrations by the artist Rockwell Kent.

image of a book: Shakings: Etchings from the Naval Academy by Benjamin Park; found in the Crystal Bridges Library collection

In Shakings (1867) by Benjamin Park, a series of etchings illustrate the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. This humorous tale shows the daily life of admirals at sea.

image of the book Manual of Conchology; structural and systematic with illustrations of the species by George W. Tryon, Jr.; found in the Crystal Bridges Library collection

Manual of Conchology (1878) by George Washington Tryon illustrates beautiful sea life species as they were discovered and analyzed for scientific inquiry.

image of a page from Drift from Sea Life by C. McKnight Smith; found in the Crystal Bridges Library collection

Drift from Sea Life (1891) by C. McKnight Smith illustrates the hardship of life at sea through imagery and poetry.

Want to see more rare books? Head up to the Library on the third floor! The rare books found in the Crystal Bridges Library pertain to subjects such as art, history, horticulture, literature, and science. They are available to view by appointment and are listed on our online catalog.

In American Waters is now on view through January 31, 2022. Learn more and get tickets here.

 

Written by Kariah Brust, reference assistant, Crystal Bridges Library.