Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Review: "A Monument More Durable Than Brass"

The beautiful exhibition catalog to accompany "A Monument More Durable Than Brass: The Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson" (at Harvard's Houghton Library this fall, and now at the Grolier Club through 6 February 2010; digital version here) is an excellent complement to the exhibit.

The catalog features well-reproduced photographs and short descriptions of many of the items on display, but even beyond those offers significant essays: Tom Horrocks' useful introduction to the volume, James Engell's "Perdurable Johnson," which examines the lasting legacy and impact of Johnson's writings to the common reader and our continuing fascination with the man and his works, and William Zachs' "The Hydes Collect Johnson," a short but very interesting look at the Hydes as collectors and scholars of Johnson and his circle. Detailed timelines of both the Hyde Collection and of Johnson's own life are helpful, as is a short bibliography following the catalog.

John Overholt's item descriptions capture this series of Hyde Collection highlights perfectly, from Gilbert Stuart's portrait of Johnson to the great man's teapot and his register of books loaned to friends, to fragments from the manuscript of the Dictionary and beyond. It was a delight to re-experience the exhibition through this catalog, and I encourage all who can to go see it in physical form at the Grolier Club.

No comments: