What would Henry David Thoreau have made of the Providence Athenæum’s famously atmospheric library alcoves? After spending a day in Boston’s venerable libraries in 1852, Thoreau imagined a more elemental encounter with books: a trek into a primitive forest where old and new volumes by poets, philosophers and naturalists were shelved together in crumbling wilderness alcoves. He recorded this bibliophilic fantasy in his journal – a lifelong work of self-documentation and reflection that filled almost fifty blank books over the course of 24 years. Join Christine Nelson, curator at the Morgan Library & Museum, for a look into Thoreau’s rich journal, a discussion of his dynamic relationship with books old and new, and the story of how the notebooks of America’s most legendary simplifier ended up in the lavish library of this country’s most storied financier.
--Christine Nelson is the Drue Heinz Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, which holds the bulk of Thoreau’s journal notebooks. In 2017, she collaborated with David Wood of the Concord Museum on the bicentenary exhibition This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal. She has curated major exhibitions on a wide range of subjects, including the life of Charlotte Brontë and the history of diary keeping. She is the author of The Magic of Handwriting (TASCHEN, 2018), a commentary on The Little Prince (Folio Society, 2017), and The Brontës: A Family Writes (Scala, 2016).