Come celebrate the season with Robert Frost and the Spiral Press

Join us Thursday, December 14th at 4:00pm in the Davis Family Library Atrium for a reception to honor and enjoy the current Special Collections exhibition, Holiday Greetings from Robert Frost and the Spiral Press, curated by College Archivist Danielle Rougeau.

Light refreshments will be served.

On display for the first time since 1961, when Corinne Tennyson Davids donated the Wales Hawkins Memorial Collection of Frostiana to Middlebury, Robert Frost’s complete set of 28 holiday cards tell the story of an artistic collaboration spanning more than three decades. Robert Frost and the Spiral Press created holiday greeting cards of the highest craftsmanship and design from 1929 until 1962. Works of art in themselves, the cards also stand as true first editions of the chosen poems. Frost became a true champion of fine letterpress, and commented that “the Spiral’s typography and printing found things to say to my poetry that hadn’t been said before.”  

The Library Harbors Exiles in Special Collections’ “Banned and Banished” Exhibit

This spring in the Library Atrium, Special Collections and Archives commemorates the 2,000th anniversary of the Roman poet Ovid’s death by showcasing the works of seven exiled authors through the centuries. The exhibition, entitled Banned and Banished: Ovid and 2,000 Years of Exile, explores the lives and works of Ovid, Dante Alighieri, Voltaire, Oscar Wilde, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, and Salman Rushdie who, fleeing from war and tyranny, facing persecution for political beliefs or sexual orientation, or punished for speaking out against oppression or ignorance, were forced to abandon their homelands and seek refuge elsewhere. 

“Ménade” by Léon Bakst (1866-1934), a Russian artist who fled to Paris to escape restrictions placed on the movement of Jews in Imperial Russia. From “The Book of the Homeless,” edited by Edith Wharton to support refugees of World War I, New York, 1916.

In selecting authors to feature in the exhibition, we found that some of the most important works of literature were written in exile or were so contentious that they led to the banishment of their authors. From Ovid’s “carmen et error,” the poem and mistake which he says caused Augustus to banish him from Rome, to Dante’s Divine Comedy, the greatest work of Italian literature composed after the great poet’s political exile from Florence, to Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses that provoked a religious edict for his death and forced him into hiding, the works on display represent expatriated authors who used their writing as a means of escape, of bringing light to their plights, challenging authority, and reconnecting with their nations of origin.

First edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Paris, 1922. Feeling constrained by social and religious pressures in Dublin, Joyce left Ireland in 1904 but centered his writing around his homeland.

With the recent government Muslim ban and proposed border wall, we felt that while these authors are remote in terms of time, their struggle is sadly present and pressing. We feature these works not only for their literary merit and historical significance but also to present the library as a space where exiles, refugees, and those seeking solace and knowledge are supported.

Signed first American edition of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, New York, 1989. In addition to causing the fatwa ordering Rushdie’s execution, his book was banned in many countries, and Rushdie himself was prevented from entering Pakistan, where his mother lived in her later years.

Exhibit curated by Postgraduate Fellow for Special Collections & Archives, Mikaela Taylor.
Also on display in the Davis Family Library: Beast, Animal, Brute, an exhibit exploring our enduring fascination with animals, curated by Rebekah Irwin, with research assistance by Sam Cartwright, ‘18 and exhibition design assistance by Danielle Rougeau.

New Special Collections exhibits just in time for summer

Currently populating the glass cases of Davis Family Library are Margaret Armstrong book covers and historic postcards. Don’t miss the chance to see them before heading out for the summer!

As part of American Studies professor Ellery Foutch’s AMST 101 course, American Holidays, students researched holiday postcards from our collection, exploring how symbols and themes reflect the cultural mores of turn-of-the-century American life.

The postcards they studied and their comments are on display in the library atrium.

To compliment this exhibit, college archivist Danielle Rougeau curated and designed an exhibit featuring postcards and scrapbooks from the archives. The postcards capture Middlebury College’s landscape and characters as well as the role of postcard correspondence through history.

Postcard from Marjorie Phelps, class of 1917, to her mother. As she mentions, she and her roommate are pictured on the reverse.
Postcard from Marjorie Phelps, class of 1917, to her mother. As she mentions, she and her roommate are pictured on the reverse.

Rounding out our summer exhibits is a tribute to Margaret Armstrong, curated by Joseph Watson and designed by Danielle Rougeau. Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944), one of the most accomplished book cover designers of the early twentieth century, produced cover art and illustrations for over 270 books.

Come to Special Collections to see a selection of her cover designs and learn more about her life!

Can you tell which cover Margaret Armstrong didn’t design? Come to Special Collections for a closer look and the answer!


“Shall we their fond pageant see?” A Midsummer Night’s Dream May 5-8!

While our February Folio fever has passed, the Shakespeare celebration continues with the theater department’s upcoming production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Come watch the latest show in the long legacy of Shakespeare at Middlebury with performances at 7:30pm Thursday-Saturday, May 5-7 and 2pm Sunday, May 8th in Wright Theater!


And be sure to catch Special Collections’ archival exhibit featuring historic costume and set designs of past Middlebury Shakespeare productions! On display for a limited time in the atrium of Davis Family Library.

Middlebury's 1971 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Middlebury’s 1971 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Original watercolor costume design by legendary Middlebury costume and set designer Capp Potter for the 1978 production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

First Folio Festival Thursday!

Join us this Thursday February 18th to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the First Folio! exhibit at the Middlebury Museum of Art.

Starting at 4:30pm in the Center for the Arts lobby, there will be musical and theatrical performances, guided tours of the exhibit with professors of English and American Literature Timothy Billings and James Berg, children’s activities with Page One Literacy, and sweet and savory Renaissance refreshments.


Shakespeare’s First Folio at Middlebury – Keynote Wednesday and more events to come!

This February, one of the most important books in the history of English literature is coming to Middlebury. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and to honor the centuries of the bard’s influence, the Folger Shakespeare Library is sponsoring a national tour of their collection of First Folios.

FSL logo

Considered one of the most influential books in the world, the First Folio includes 36 Shakespeare plays, 18 of which had never been printed before the First Folio in 1623. Without the First Folio, all of those plays – including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, As You Like It, and more – might have been lost forever.

From February 2-28, Middlebury College will serve as the Vermont site of the national tour, displaying the First Folio at the Middlebury Museum of Art.


To kick off this month of celebration, James Shapiro, Columbia University professor and renowned Shakespeare scholar, will give a lecture on Shakespeare’s role in American history on Wednesday February 3rd at 7:00pm in the Concert Hall.

Visit go/shakespeare for more information about events throughout the month of February, including a First Folio Festival on Thursday February 18th at 4:30pm in the Center for the Arts Lobby.

New book art in Special Collections

Last week we shared our newest oldest acquisition, a cuneiform-inscribed baked clay tablet from around 2,000 BCE, and today we feature our newest new acquisition, two works by Brian Dettmer.


Brooklyn-based book artist Brian Dettmer transforms books into art pieces, carving into them to uncover new meaning in the pages and to redefine the book’s role as an cultural object and knowledge repository.

Pictured above, and on display in the Special Collections Reading Room are The Smaller Big Fun Book, 2012 and Manual of Engineering Drawing, 2010. Come take a look!

Disclaimer: While we appreciate these works of book art, we do not endorse such work with any Library materials.