Catalogue


An illuminated life : Belle da Costa Greene's journey from prejudice to privilege /
Heidi Ardizzone.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2007.
description
580 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
9780393051049
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2007.
isbn
9780393051049
contents note
Raised expectations -- Gilded dreams in New York -- Princeton : early influences -- Belle Greene, girl librarian -- A turn in the road -- The whirl in which I live -- Bella Italia -- Hiding in the light -- A modern woman -- Crossroads -- Battlefields -- Lady directress -- A woman of a certain age -- Shining through the darkness.
catalogue key
6186445
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2007-05-01:
Outside of the library world, few remember Belle da Costa Greene, who in 1905 became the first curator of New York's fabulous J.P. Morgan Library. Yet she was an unusually successful professional woman, an African American who slipped across the color bar and an unmarried woman whose bisexual affairs marked a life of sensual and intellectual freedom. Born Belle Marion Greener, the daughter of the first African American man to graduate from Harvard University, she reinvented herself as a woman of Portuguese ancestry and the dynamic head of one of the top antiquarian libraries. Unfortunately, she had her papers burned shortly before her death in 1950, which left biographer Ardizzone (American studies, Univ. of Notre Dame; coauthor, Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White) to work with letters, public records, and friends' memoirs. Ardizzone more than succeeds in portraying a vivid figure who rose to the top in a segregated, paternalistic world yet suffered loneliness and was haunted by personal demons. A valuable work for students of early 20th-century culture as well as for librarians, feminists, and students of race relations. For general and specialized collections. (Illustrations not seen.)-Shelley Cox, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2007-04-16:
Ardizzone's competent, complimentary biography explains the complicated, glamorous woman who transcended her lack of formal higher education and obfuscated her race to become head of the Pierpont Morgan Library and confidante of the financial mogul who founded it. Belle Green (1879-1950), the daughter of a civil rights activist who was the first African-American man to graduate from Harvard College, was plucked by J.P. Morgan's nephew Junius Morgan from the Princeton Library in 1905, where she had developed a passion for the rare pre-15th-century illuminated manuscripts that were to become the basis of her work for Morgan. Greene became a key player in major acquisitions, such as 16 Caxtons from Lord Amherst's collection. She famously lived at full throttle, speaking her mind and taking many lovers, notably married art scholar Bernard Berenson. Morgan's death left her with a sizable inheritance, and she continued at his library. Although Ardizzone delineates the intricacies of major art transactions, she devotes more space to the copious details of Greene's flamboyant personal life than to assessments of the Morgan treasures that were her legacy. Still, Ardizzone (coauthor, Love on Trial) showcases the impressive talents of a woman who once wielded enormous power in New York society. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, April 2007
Library Journal, May 2007
Booklist, June 2007
New York Times Book Review, July 2007
New York Times Full Text Review, October 2009
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Born to a family of colour, Greene changed her name and invented a Portuguese grandmother to enter white society. Looking at her relationship with art critic Bernard Berenson and how she shaped the famous Pierpont Morgan Library collection in New York, this book tells her story.
Long Description
The secret life of the sensational woman behind the Morgan masterpieces, who lit up New York society. What would you give up to achieve your dream? When J. P. Morgan hired Belle da Costa Greene in 1905 to organize his rare book and manuscript collection, she had only her personality and a few years of experience to recommend her. Ten years later, she had shaped the famous Pierpont Morgan Library collection and was a proto-celebrity in New York and the art world, renowned for her self-made expertise, her acerbic wit, and her flirtatious relationships. Born to a family of free people of color, Greene changed her name and invented a Portuguese grandmother to enter white society. In her new world, she dined both at the tables of the highest society and with bohemian artists and activists. She also engaged in a decades-long affair with art critic Bernard Berenson. Greene is pure fascination--the buyer of illuminated manuscripts who attracted others to her like moths to a flame. 20 illustrations.
Main Description
What would you give up to achieve your dream? When J. P. Morgan hired Belle da Costa Greene in 1905 to organize his rare book and manuscript collection, she had only her personality and a few years of experience to recommend her. Ten years later, she had shaped the famous Pierpont Morgan Library collection and was a proto-celebrity in New York and the art world, renowned for her self-made expertise, her acerbic wit, and her flirtatious relationships. Born to a family of free people of color, Greene changed her name and invented a Portuguese grandmother to enter white society. In her new world, she dined both at the tables of the highest society and with bohemian artists and activists. She also engaged in a decades-long affair with art critic Bernard Berenson. Greene is pure fascination -- the buyer of illuminated manuscripts who attracted others to her like moths to a flame.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Presenting Belle da Costa Greenep. 1
Raised Expectationsp. 13
Gilded Dreams in New Yorkp. 40
Princeton: Early Influencesp. 61
Belle Greene, Girl Librarianp. 78
A Turn in the Roadp. 105
"The Whirl in Which I Live"p. 131
Bella Italiap. 174
Hiding in the Lightp. 206
A Modern Womanp. 251
Crossroadsp. 284
Battlefieldsp. 326
Lady Directressp. 366
A Woman of a Certain Agep. 421
Shining through the Darknessp. 448
Epilogue: The Passing of Belle Greenep. 471
Acknowledgmentsp. 481
Notesp. 485
Select Bibliographyp. 543
Photograph Creditsp. 549
Indexp. 551
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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