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Mirabile Dictu: The Bryn Mawr College Library Newsletter

Fall 2009 Issue 13

More Treasures!

To celebrate the College’s 125th anniversary, the library will mount a major exhibition featuring some of the extraordinary books, art work, manuscripts, and artifacts donated to Bryn Mawr by its generous alumnae/i, faculty, and friends since its founding. The exhibition, opening late September 2010, will highlight not just the objects, but also the generous and creative people who built the collections and donated them to the College, people like Phyllis Goodhart Gordon, Ethelinda Schaefer Castle, Seymour Adelman, Frederica de Laguna, and Mary Hamilton Swindler.

We are previewing the exhibition through a series of articles in the Alumnae Bulletin on major donors and some of the stellar pieces from their collections. Continuing that theme, this issue of Mirabile Dictu also features a donor—former President Katharine McBride—and her unexpectedly extensive collection of books on the British Empire and western travels to Asia and Africa.

As we prepare for the exhibition, we have also come to appreciate that many of our most important objects are in need of repair, including the featured book from the McBride collection. To help underwrite the cost of this restoration work, The Friends of the Library have a Preservation Fund. For a gift of $50 or more, you can become a co-sponsor of a Treasure, and your name will be listed with the object in the next Mirabile Dictu and on the Treasures website. For a gift of $500 or more, you can become an object’s sponsor, and be listed in Mirabile Dictu, on the website, and in the public catalog record for the book.

For additional information about the program and items available for sponsorship, please contact Eric Pumroy, Director of Library Collections and Seymour Adelman Head of Special Collections: telephone 610-526-5272, email:

Treasures Restored 2008-2009

Gregory the Great. Homeliae decem super extremam partem ezechielis. Manuscript volume. Tours, 11th century. Gift of Howard Lehman Goodhart. Restored through the gift of Julia and Thomas Gaiser, Swarthmore, PA. The oldest complete work in Bryn Mawr’s library, with marginal notes written by Petrarch.

William Hamilton, Campi Phlegraei: Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies. Naples: 1776. Gift of Emily Fox Cheston, Class of 1908. Restored through the gift of Maxine Lewis 1958, Devon, PA. One of the great scientific works of the 18th century, with extraordinary illustrations of Mt. Vesuvius.

Marianne Moore, Poems. London: Egoist Press, 1921. Gift of Lucy Martin Donnelly, Class of 1893. Restored through the gift of Margaretta Frederick, PhD 1996, Newark, DE. Moore’s first book of poetry, given by Moore to her Bryn Mawr English professor, Lucy Martin Donnelly.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More (1815-1897): Reminiscences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. New York: European Publishing Co., 1898. Restored through the gift of Natalie Naylor 1959, Uniondale, NY. First edition of her autobiography, with handwritten dedication to the students of Bryn Mawr College.

Chardin’s eloquent account of working as a jewelry merchant in Persia and India provided one of the first detailed descriptions of the people and institutions of that region to readers in Europe, and it continues to be one of our best sources for studying Persian life in the late 17th century. Part of the book’s charm is not just its well-crafted prose, but also its numerous illustrations of Persian towns and monuments, many of them large fold-out prints.

Bryn Mawr’s copy is still in its original late 17th-century leather binding. The leather connecting the front and back boards has cracked, and will need to be repaired to prevent the boards from breaking off the book. In addition, many of the folded prints have become badly wrinkled. The restoration work will repair the leather spine, re-attach the front and back boards to the spine, and flatten and repair the illustrations.

A Presidential Collection

In addition to her demanding career as President of Bryn Mawr from 1942 to 1970, and as a productive scholar in Psychology, Katharine McBride also had a secret obsession with collecting books on the history of the British Empire, particularly India and the neighboring areas. In a talk given to the Friends of the Library in 1975, President McBride revealed that this passion arose from a course she took on British imperialism in her senior year, a class she described as a “luxury course” since it had nothing to do with her major. Nonetheless, the interest stuck with her, and as she pursued her graduate work on people with brain injuries, she frequently visited the Philadelphia bookstores. A few visits, and a few books later, she found herself starting what eventually turned into a very important collection for studying both the British Empire and western interactions with Asia and Africa. The collection totals approximately 1200 volumes, and includes both early travel accounts, such as the Chardin described here, but also an extensive collection of rare pamphlets and government publications relating to British rule in India.


Marianne Moore, Poems. London: Egoist Press, 1921. Gift of Lucy Martin Donnelly, Class of 1893. Two handwritten corrections by Moore.

Jean Chardin, Journal du voyage du chevalier Chardin en Perse & aux Indes orientales: par la Mer noire & par la Colchide. Londres: Chez Moses Pitt, 1686. Gift of Katharine McBride ’25, Bryn Mawr, PA.

Katharine McBride, early 1950s.