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Ancient and modern book collectors: Henry Darger and Alexander the Great

 01/10/2018

In 1973, Nathan Lerner went to clear out the Chicago flat of a long-time tenant. What he discovered astonished him: a reclusive hospital caretaker, Henry Darger had privately been engaged in a remarkable life’s work—the 15,145-page Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal. Today, Darger is posthumously recognised as one of the foremost ‘outsider’ artists, whose self-taught mixed-media projects juxtapose idyllic fantasy with horrifying representations of war and torture. Ebtehadj-Marquis will consider Henry Darger’s methods of research and book collecting in relation to a broader conception of book collection as ‘outsider’ art.
 

 

Alexander the Great is said to have slept with a copy of Homer’s Iliad under his pillow and developed such a book-thirst while on campaign in Persia that he sent for an assortment of scrolls, including the plays of Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus. Khoo will examine this tale of obsession along with morbid testimonies which showcase the ‘life-and-death’ significance of books in antiquity. She will reveal what it meant to be a ‘book collector’ in antiquity and discuss how ancient attitudes have influenced her own practice as a collector of Classical literature.

 
About the speakers:

Mina Ebtehadj-Marquis is a former recipient of the University of Oxford’s Colin Franklin Book Collecting Prize (2017). She collects children’s adaptations of The Faerie Queene, with a budget of no more than £10 for each book purchase. She now works, collects, and writes in London.
Astrid Khoo is a Classics student at King’s College London. She collects monolingual Latin-language books. She has been awarded the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize (2017), the ABA National Book Collecting Prize (2017), and the Bibliopolis scholarship to the York Antiquarian Book Seminar (2018).
 
Inaugurating the 2018-19 ABA Educational Trust / Institute of English Studies Book Collecting Seminars, Mina Ebtehadj-Marquis and Astrid Khoo will speak on Tuesday 9th October on a panel entitled Ancient and modern book collectors: Henry Darger and Alexander the Great. The event will be held in Senate House, Room 246, from 6-8pm. The speakers are both former book collecting prize-winners. A flyer for the event is attached.
 
Details of the exciting seminars programme for the rest of the year will a be given out on the same day. It includes panels on collecting science books and the queer book, and a talk on the fabulous binding collection of Dorneywood.