Category Archives: Events

Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask

“Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask,” will be the second in a series of live webinars highlighting Special Collections in Firestone Library, Princeton University. Please join Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, and Karl Kusserow, John Wilmerding Curator of American Art, at 2:00 on Friday, June 26, 2020, as we focus on two American pioneers in art and literature. The event is free and open to all, but please register here for the zoom invitation: Register

During the last five years of Walt Whitman’s life, Thomas Eakins was a frequent guest at the poet’s Camden, New Jersey, home where Whitman agreed to sit for an oil portrait. Eakins’ protégé Samuel Murray often joined them, photographing Whitman in preparation for a sculpted bust. On the day Whitman died, March 26, 1892, Eakins and Murray gathered all the necessary supplies to cast his face in plaster and early the next morning crossed the Delaware River, walking the final blocks to 330 Mickle Street. At least three death masks survive from the matrix they produced that day, one preserved at the Princeton University Library.

Thomas Eakins’ studio at 1330 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, to Walt Whitman’s house, 330 Mickle Blvd., Camden, New Jersey

That Whitman and Eakins were similar in temperament and talent is well documented. Their lives intertwined not only in the creation of American masterworks, but in the critical scorn and institutional censor they were each forced to endure throughout their careers. Each found a way to work independent of academia, sharing a common bond in their eternal search for truth within their work.

Samuel Murray, Thomas Eakins and William O’Donovan in Eakins’s Chestnut Street Studio

Here is a timeline merging the two careers:

1855: Whitman publishes the first edition of Leaves of Grass, containing twelve poems.
1856: Fowler & Wells, phrenologists, print and distribute the second edition of Leaves of Grass.
1865: While in Washington, Whitman is discharged from his position by Secretary James Harlan, supposedly for writing obscene poetry.
1865: Eakins studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), also attending lectures in anatomy and participating in dissections at Jefferson Medical College.
1873: Whitman suffers a paralytic stroke and moves in with his brother George in Camden, New Jersey.
1875: Eakins paints The Gross Clinic. Public and critical response is hostile.
1876: The Gross Clinic is rejected from the art exhibition at the Centennial Exposition.
1878: Alumni of Jefferson University scraped together $200 to buy the painting.
1882: Osgood withdraws his edition of Leaves of Grass on complaint of Boston District Attorney and the edition is reprinted in Philadelphia, along with Specimen Days. News of the censure leads to a boom in sales.
1884: Whitman uses the royalties to buy a house at 328 Mickle Street in Camden.
1885: Eakins paints The Swimming Hole.
1886: Eakins caused a scandal by lifting the loincloth of a male model in front of female students and is forced to resign as an instructor from the PAFA. He forms the Art Students’ League of Philadelphia but eventually stops teaching.
1887: Whitman lectures to hundreds in New York City at Madison Square Theater. Eakins is ostracized from Philadelphia society and spends the summer on a ‘rest cure’ at a ranch in the Dakota Badlands.
1888: Eakins is taken to Camden to meet Whitman by his friend Talcott Williams. Whitman finds the artist’s lack of social graces refreshing and offers to sit for him. “Mr. Eakins, the portrait painter, of Philadelphia; is going to have a whack at me.” Later that year, Whitman suffers another paralytic stroke followed by severe illness.
1889: Eakins paints The Agnew Clinic.
1889: The artist attends Whitman’s 70th birthday party and describes painting the poet, “I began in the usual way, but soon found that the ordinary methods wouldn’t do,—that technique, rules and traditions would have to be thrown aside; that, before all else, he was to be treated as a man.”
1890: Whitman pays $4,000 to have a tomb built for himself in Harleigh Cemetery, Camden.
1892: Whitman dies at 6:43 p.m. on March 27. The following morning, Thomas Eakins and his protégé Samuel Murray go to Camden to make a cast of Whitman’s face and left hand. Whitman’s brain is removed and sent to the American Anthropometric Society.
1895: Murray and Eakins use Whitman’s mask to carve Moses, one of ten biblical prophets commissioned for the Witherspoon building in Philadelphia.

The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks, Princeton University

The New York Times, May 24, 2020

In case you do not get The New York Times or didn’t see today’s paper, here is the front page. Access this page as a high-resolution PDF: VIEW PDF. This file is keyword searchable to find individuals, occupations, and locations. To order a high-quality reprint of this page, click here.

“Numbers alone cannot possibly measure the impact of the coronavirus on America, whether it is the number of patients treated, jobs interrupted or lives cut short. As the country nears a grim milestone of 100,000 deaths attributed to the virus, The New York Times scoured obituaries and death notices of the victims. The 1,000 people here reflect just 1 percent of the toll. None were mere numbers.”

2:00 New Theories on the Oldest American Woodcut

If you are not able to attend today’s 2:00 talk “New Theories on the Oldest American Woodcut: The Portrait of Richard Mather by John Foster, ca. 1670,” which is almost fully registered, ( at least you can enjoy the Mather portrait puzzle designed here:

Thanks to the template provided by Jigsaw Puzzle Explorer.

Below is a link to the recording of the presentation:

Thank you for your help!
Here is the timeline covered in the presentation:
1630 Dorchester founded, just a few months before the founding of the city of Boston
1635 Reverend Richard Mather arrived at Boston and settled in Dorchester
1638/39 The first European printing press arrived in Colonial America
1648 John Foster born in Dorchester and baptized by Mather
1667 Foster graduated from Harvard College and returned to Dorchester as a schoolteacher
1669 Richard Mather died
1670 Increase Mather wrote The Life and Death of that Reverend Man of God, Mr. Richard Mather
1670? Foster carved a portrait of Mather and printed the two composite blocks on the Cambridge press of Marmaduke Johnson and/or Samuel Green
1674 Johnson moved his press to Boston but died the same year. With Increase Mather’s help, Foster took over the press and became the first printer in Boston
1681 Foster died of consumption age 33 and equipment went to Bartholomew Green (and blocks?)
1732 Green died and equipment went to John Draper (and blocks?)

These are the sizes of the collotype reproductions printed with Gillette Griffin’s article 1959. They are not from the original impressions:
Harvard University 150 x 122 mm
University of Virginia 151 x 125 mm
American Antiquarian Society 153 x 122 mm
Princeton University 154 x 128 mm
Mass. Hist. Society 153 x 128 mm

Here is a selected bibliography so you can read more about Foster’s woodcut:

Increase Mather (1639-1723), The Life And Death Of That Reverend Man Of God, Mr. Richard Mather, Teacher Of The Church In Dorchester In New-England: [seven lines of quotations] (Cambridge [Mass.]: Printed by S.G. and M.J. [i.e., Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson], 1670). William H. Scheide Library 101.19. Dedication signed: Increase Mather. Boston N.E. Septemb. 6. 1670. WHS copy has engraved portrait of Increase Mather pasted on verso of t.p., with inscription: Crescentius Matherus. Aetatis Suae 49. 1688. Vanderspirit pinxit. R. White Sculp. Londini. WHS copy is Thomas M. Waller and Edith A. Pollard’s copy, acquired 6/2/38 from Goodspeed; inv. 483.

Thomas Tilestone, A Funeral Elegy, Dedicated To The Memory Of His Worthy Friend, [Microform]: The Learned & Religious Mr. John Foster; Who Deceased In Dorchester, The 9th. Of September. 1681 ([Cambridge, Mass.: Printed by Samuel Green, 1681]).

Richard Mather (1596-1660), Journal of Richard Mather, 1635: His Life And Death, 1670 (Boston [Mass.]: D. Clapp, 1850). Reproduction of the original from the American Antiquarian Society.

Samuel G. Drake (1798-1875), A Memoir Of The Rev. Cotton Mather, D. D., With A Genealogy Of The Family Of Mather (Boston: C. C. P. Moody, printer, 1851).

Samuel A. Green (1830-1918), John Foster: the Earliest American Engraver and the First Boston Printer (Boston: Published by the Massachusetts Historical Society at the Charge of the Waterston fund, No. 2., 1909). Graphic Arts Collection Z232.F7 G8. Graphic Arts copy “Elmer Adler, Princeton”–Written in pen on p. [2] of cover.

“An Early Printer: John Foster the First to Establish a Press in Boston,” The Hartford Courant, November 12, 1909: 5.

Frederick I. Weis, “Checklist of the Portraits in the American Antiquarian Society,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society; Worcester, Mass. Vol. 56, issue 1, (January 1, 1947): 55.

Sinclair Hamilton, “Portrait of a Puritan: John Foster’s Woodcut of Richard Mather,” The Princeton University Library Chronicle 18, no. 2 (Winter 1957): 43-48

Sinclair Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators And Wood Engravers, 1670-1870: A Catalogue Of A Collection Of American Books Illustrated For The Most Part With Woodcuts And Wood Engravings (Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1958).

Gillett Griffin (1928-2016), “John Foster’s woodcut of Richard Mather,” PaGA, Printing & Graphic Arts v. 7, no. 1 (1959): 1-19.

Richard Holman, “Some Remarks on Mr. Richard Mather,” PaGA, Printing & Graphic Arts v. 7, no. 1 (1959): 57-63.

Increase Mather (1639-1723), Life and Death of Richard Mather (1670). A facsimile reprint with an introd. by Benjamin Franklin V, and William K. Bottorff (Athens, Ohio: 1966). Firestone Library BX7260.M368 M3 1670. Facsim. of the Boston Public Library copy, except the port.

Robert Middlekauff, The Mathers; Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971). Firestone Library F67 .M4865 1971.

Melissa Johnson Kane, John Foster, the Ingenious Mathematician & Printer ([Charlottesville, Va.], 1973). Thesis: M.A.; University of Virginia; 1973.

B. R. Burg, Richard Mather of Dorchester ([Lexington, Ky.]: University Press of Kentucky, 1976). ReCAP BX7260.M368B87

James Lawton, “John Foster (December 1648-9 September 1681),” American Colonial Writers, 1606-1734, edited by Emory Elliott. Dictionary of Literary Biography 24 (1984): 123-25.

Herschel C. Logan, John Foster and America’s First Woodcut: 1670 (Fellerton, CA: Lyceum Press; Lorson’s Books & Prints, 1988).

Cotton Mather (1663-1728), Two Mather Biographies: Life and Death and Parentator, edited by William J. Scheick (Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press, 1989). ReCAP, BX7259 .M32 1989

Georgia Brady Barnhill, “The Catalogue of American Engravings: A Manual for Users,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society; Worcester, Mass. Vol. 108, Issue 1 (January 1, 1998): 113.

Elisabeth Louise Roark, Artists of Colonial America (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003).

New Theories on the Oldest American Woodcut

John Foster (1648-1681), Mr. Richard Mather, ca.1670. Woodcut. Sinclair Hamilton no.1, Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton University Library


To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the oldest surviving print from Colonial America, we have assembled all five extent copies of the portrait of the Reverend Richard Mather (1596-1669) to compare them. Never exhibited together in a physical gallery, this virtual presentation will help to address the many unanswered questions surrounding the five woodcuts, such as why is his shoulder so uneven? When were they actually printed? And what was the purpose of the picture?

Princeton University is fortunate to own one of these rare impressions. With our sincere thanks, the other copies are shown courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society; Houghton Library, Harvard University; Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History, University of Virginia.

Please join us for a live zoom talk at 2:00 p.m. EDT on May 22, 2020, beginning with a presentation by Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, Princeton University Library, followed by a conversation with Caroline Duroselle-Melish, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints and Associate Librarian for Collection Care and Development, Folger Shakespeare Library.

Register here: A link will be sent once you register. Questions are welcome during the talk or in advance to Hope to see you there.

39th annual Thomas Edison Black Maria Film Festival now screening online

New York City Sketchbook by Willy Hartland of Brooklyn, NY, is only one of the 151 films included in the 39th annual Thomas Edison Black Maria Film festival, now screening online at:, thanks to the partnership with the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, the Hoboken Historical Museum, and many other New Jersey organizations.

Here is the program booklet, which can be downloaded or read online: and/or

You can watch each film separately or watch one of the five  ‘curated’ programs of films provided by the festival. To make choosing easier, films have been broken into categories such as animation, documentary, experimental, narrative, and so on.

A call for 2021 entries is already posted. “The Black Maria Film Festival seeks diverse, expressive, and passionate short films and videos by independent makers. The Festival is known for its support of spirited, cutting edge, and otherwise singular films. The Black Maria Film Festival is committed to works that explore the potential of the medium to illuminate, provoke, enrich, and engage viewers. Imaginative and revelatory films are sought including work that provides insight into the human condition and political, social, and environmental issues, and work that addresses the lives of people with disabilities.”

Earlier in the year, the Black Maria Film Festival kicked off its 39th annual season with two special screening events at Princeton University including filmmakers Su Friedrich, Edith Goldenhar, Emily Hubley, and Lynne Sachs discussing their work and participating in an audience Q&A with Festival Director Jane Steuerwald in an evening of “Women in Film.” There was also a screening of five top prize-winning films with filmmaker/photographer/author Eugene Richards, winner of the Festival’s Stellar Award for Documentary. If you join the mailing list, you will receive announcements and not miss any 2021 events.

Update on project 3: Women graduates

Margaret Boyd, first woman graduate portrait, Ohio University, circa 1890

Last week, a challenge was posted to send the name and details of the first woman to graduate from your college or school.

Here is the beginning of a spreadsheet with the data that’s coming in:

These are priceless stories. Don’t be left out. Send the information on your own institution’s history and it will be included. Sincere thanks to all who are participating!

2020 Gillett G. Griffin memorial lecture cancelled

Kevin Barry talks to WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone. from Irish Arts Center on Vimeo.

Sadly, the Gillett Griffin memorial lecture scheduled for April 2020 is cancelled, along with our colleague’s New Irish Fiction panel at Columbia University. As a replacement, here’s a video of Kevin Barry talking with WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone at the NYC Irish Arts Center last fall when his novel Night Boat to Tangier first appeared in the US.

Here also is a section to read:

“Kevin Barry, one of Ireland’s most exciting novelists, reads from and discusses his latest work Night Boat to Tangier, a tragicomic Irish saga of menace and romance, mutual betrayals and serial exiles. Author and journalist Brooke Gladstone, of WNYC’s On The Media, moderates.”

See also:

A Midnight Modern Conversation and other online resources

Princeton University has recorded and offers a tremendous repository of online lectures, conversations, panels, and classes. For example in 2011, to open the Graphic Arts Collection’s exhibition Sin and the City: William Hogarth’s London, we organized a panel of amazing world experts including Tim Hitchcock, Linda Colley, Claude Rawson, and Mark Hallett. We called it “A Midnight Modern Conversation” in honor of Hogarth. The discussion was and is illuminating and highly recommended for students of art history, British history, city planning, and more. Here is the link:


Last fall, the Princeton University Art Museum hung a show entitled States of Health: Visualizing Illness and Healing. A wonderful full-day symposium was held with artists, doctors, historians, and more, which can be found at this link: A shout-out to Eric Avery, printmaker and M.D. specializing in infectious diseases.



Here is a thrilling conversation between Hugh Hayden and Chika Okeke-Ogulu about the artist’s life and work. Link to it here:



Poetry? Watch and listen to Paul Muldoon reading from his then new book, In the Horse Latitudes, on August 20th, 2013. Find it here:

Another interview and reading here:



A conversation with the great contemporary artist and calligrapher Shahzia Sikander:

Here’s a video with the brilliant Ghana sculptor El Anatsui:

And much more…

Morning at Princeton 10:00 a.m. March 16, 2020, for the archives

Rt. 1 to Princeton

When Worlds Collide: Poetry and Computation


Members of the class “When Worlds Collide: Poetry and Computation” visited the Graphic Arts Collection looking at ways the classic poetry book has been deconstructed beginning with Walt Whitman’s 1855 Leaves of Grass to a 2017 scroll edition of Hart Crane’s The Bridge with woodblock prints by Joel Shapiro. A wide variety of materials were pulled including four distinct versions of Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard. Pages designed in positive and negative space are featured in Paul Éluard’s Proverbe, Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes, and Werner Pfeiffer’s Liber Mobile.

The interdisciplinary seminar, taught by Brian W. Kernighan and Efthymia Rentzou, brings together humanities and applied sciences, addressing questions of literacy, media, and modes of knowledge. The course is organized around poetry and digital technology and explores the history of each as systems of relating, organizing, and understanding the real. Media technologies and means of communication for both poetry and computing — from orality to writing, from the alphabet to the printing press, from the scroll to the book, from computers to the internet — structure our discussion.

Here’s a pdf of the checklist: poetry