NEWS: November 2010

Vol. 3, No. 11

In This Issue:

Banner Image: Rendering of the U. S. Treasury Building, 1838.  Thomas Ustick Walter, Architect.  T. U. Walter Collection.




I have just returned from Cincinnati where I joined nine other directors of membership libraries from across the country to share ideas, triumphs and failures, all in the cause of pooling our knowledge to make our libraries better.  The nine other directors included representatives from the Charleston Library Society (SC, established 1748); New York Society Library (NY, est. 1754); Boston Athenaeum (est. 1807); Salem Athenaeum (MA; est. 1810); Portsmouth Athenaeum (NH, est. 1817); Cincinnati Mercantile Library (OH, est. 1835); Providence Athenaeum (RI, est. 1836); Lanier Library Association (Tryon, NC, est. 1889); and the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library (La Jolla, CA, est. 1899). The group meets every year in the fall, and this year Albert Pyle from Cincinnati showed off the renovation of the Mercantile Library space in downtown Cincinnati.  Next year we will meet at the New York Society Library, where Mark Bartlett will tour us through the oldest library in New York City.  If you are interested in learning more about the history of membership libraries in the United States, read America’s Membership Libraries, edited by Richard Wendorf, the former director of the Boston Athenaeum.  Our own Athenaeum is represented by an essay by Roger W. Moss, beautifully illustrated with Tom Crane photographs as well as images from our collections.

Reminder: The Athenaeum will close at noon on November 24th, and will be closed on the 25th and 26th for Thanksgiving.


Banner Image: Rendering of the U. S. Treasury Building, 1838.  Thomas Ustick Walter, Architect.  T. U. Walter Collection.


Above: Group photo of the directors of the nine libraries represented at the 2010 Membership Libraries Group meeting in Cincinnati.


New Books for November

Athenaeum Bookshelf  11-2010

William Birch Symposium

Coming to Philadelphia in 1794, William Russell Birch (1755-1834) would become the first artist successfully to publish engraved view books in the United States.  He arrived with a letter from Benjamin West and with a successful publication, Delices de la Grande Bretagne, a series of 36 engraved views of picturesque settings after such artists as West, Joshua Reynolds, and Thomas Gainsborough.  Although he immediately found some success as a copyist of portraits by the reigning portrait painters of the time, Birch never lost his desire to create picturesque views based upon the American experience, and in 1800 he published The City of Philadelphia, a series of 28 views which would become the touchstone for future artists, engravers, and architects desiring to present images of the city.  The success of this set of large-format prints encouraged Birch to undertake The Country Seats of the United States of North America, published in 1808.  Birch's reputation has chiefly rested on these two publications, but there is much more to learn about his life and career.

When: December 3, 2010

Registration: 8:30

Program: 9:15am - 5:00pm

Reception and exhibition opening to follow.


General Registration: $100

Students with valid ID: $25


Click here to register and view the full invitation


Above: Detail of Frontispiece, "The City & Port of Philadelphia on the River Delaware from Kensington." From William Birch, The City of Philadelphia...(W. Birch, 1800).


Witold Rybczynski Lecture and Book Signing

Witold Rybczynski, Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities

Prize-winning author, Meyerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, and architecture critic Witold Rybczynski draws upon a lifetime of observing cities to craft an insightful book that is both an intellectual history and a provoking critique.  In Makeshift Metropolis, he describes how current ideas about urban planning evolved from several movements: City Beautiful, Garden City, and the influences of both Frank Lloyd Wright and Jane Jacobs.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 5:30 PM


Free to members. RSVP to Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or


Non-members click here to register



New Book on the Treasury Building

The latest work by noted architectural historian Pamela Scott was released this fall by the Treasury Historical Association.  Fortress of Finance: The United States Treasury Building is a comprehensive history of the building that sits just a few feet east of the White House in Washington DC.  Ms. Scott did extensive research for the book in the Athenaeum’s Thomas Ustick  Walter Collection where she found the photograph that graces her book’s cover.  In addition, she verified that a long-unidentified watercolor architectural rendering in the Walter Collection was in fact an 1838 unexecuted design for the Treasury Building (See the banner image of this newsletter).


Member News

Da Vinci Art Alliance Presents:

A Reading Between The Lines:
Prose, Poetry and the Power of One Voice

Athenaeum member Jax Peters Lowell, a poet, novelist and winner of the 2010 Leeway Foundation Transformation Award, will read from her forthcoming memoir An Early Winter.

Introduction by Novelist Cordelia Frances Biddle



Friday, December 10th, 2010



701 Catherine Street, Philadelphia


Above: Jax Peters Lowell.


Save the Date:  

November 6: First Saturday, Athenaeum open

November 6: Children's Programs, 1:00-4:00pm

November 9: Joan Roberts Lecture on architect T. P. Chandler at St. Asaph's Church, 6:00pm Click here for details.

November 9: Socrates Cafe, 11:00am

November 17: Witold Rybczynski Lecture and Book Signing, Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities


See the Event Calendar for details and additional events.


The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday and the first Saturday of the month from 10:00AM to 2:00PM (excluding the summer months). The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Group tours and research visits are by appointment only. Please visit our website for more information, or call 215-925-2688.


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