Reconstructing the Pope Library, Part 1: The House

“It will be always sufficient for the value of a book among book lovers to say that it came from the library of Mrs. Norton Quincy Pope.” New York Times, 27 October , 1895.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the Brooklyn bibliophile Abby Ellen Pope, a remarkable 19th century book collector. While her house in Brooklyn no longer exists and her books have been widely dispersed, I have made some progress towards a reconstruction of that space and the collection it once housed.

The House

The Pope residence stood on the northwest corner of Park Place and Vanderbilt Avenue, in the rapidly-developing neighborhood of Prospect Heights. Built ca. 1862 for George M. Woodward, head of the Woodward Steam Pump Manufacturing Company, the brick house and stable occupied a spacious corner lot of 100 by 167 feet.  


George Woodward’s house, Brooklyn. 1870. From The New York Public Library.

Abby’s father, John Hanscom, purchased the house at 241 Park Place in 1885 when the Hanscoms and Norton Q. Pope moved from Chicago to Brooklyn. In the same year, The Sanitary Engineer reported that J. Hanscom was building a one-story and basement brick addition to the house. The architect for this project was M.J. Morrill and the builders were P. Carlin & Sons and J.S. McRea. This addition would house Abby’s library, for which she had already acquired some of her greatest treasures, such as the Caxton Morte d’Arthur and the Shakespeare First Folio.


Left: Robinson’s Atlas of the City of Brooklyn (1886), shows the wing added by John Hanscom to the west side of the house in 1885. Right: a later view of the house and stable, Atlas of the Borough of Brooklyn, City of New York (1903). Follow the links to see full-size maps and to zoom in or out. From The New York Public Library.

I could not find any photographs of the house during the time that Abby Pope lived there. Images after that period were all taken from the front of the house or the street corner, obscuring the western side with its one-story library addition.

After Abby’s untimely death in 1894, the house was sold in 1895 to Peter W. Rouss, a son of the Broadway dry goods merchant, Charles Broadway Rouss. Rouss added a third story and a large brownstone porch, which can be seen in this 1903 photograph from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Residence of Peter W. Rouss, Park Place and Vanderbilt, Recently Remodeled. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 18 April 1903.

When Peter Rouss moved out of the house in 1909, it was leased to William Pitt Rivers and became the Chateau du Parc, a space for social functions. Following the Chateau du Parc, the house was repurposed several times to serve as a church, the Brooklyn Saengerbund Clubhouse, and finally the Park Vanderbilt Restaurant in the 1940s. In 1950, it was torn down by the builders Sam Minskoff & Sons to make way for a supermarket (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 18 January 1950).

The Library

The Pope library itself was first described in the local newspaper in 1887, on the occasion of Abby’s marriage to Norton Q. Pope. Immediately following their wedding, guests were invited into the “art room and library” to view the “many works of art and valuable books which are accorded places in the room.” According to the article, the room had been furnished by John Hanscom at a cost of $350,000, including “the original of the ‘Merry Tales of King Arthur,’ which cost Mr. Hanscom $15,000; the oldest edition of Shakspeare in this country, which costs $10,000, and the original manuscript of the majority of Robert Burns’ poems.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 9 June 1887). This is the only time that John Hanscom, not a book collector himself, was credited with the library.

After marriage, Abby and her husband continued to reside at 241 Park Place, and the books mentioned in the article remained part of her library. The Popes regularly entertained and hosted performances in their home, allowing many visitors the opportunity to tour the house and view the treasures of her library. Publications such as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Pratt Institute Monthly and even the New York Times took an interest in the Pope library, said to be “one of the choicest jewels in Brooklyn.” Several visitors to her library described the space in detail:

Of the really rare and choice collections of books in our country there is probably none to compare in certain directions with that of Mr. and Mrs. Norton I. Pope of this city. Their library occupies a wing of their elegant residence on Prospect heights, which is 65 feet long and 25 wide, lighted by a dome and end windows of richly stained glass. It is a beautiful and fitting resting place for the unique collections which fill it to overflowing—rare books, manuscripts, autographs and objects of art. The bookcases which line the walls are of mahogany, and so fashioned that the title of every volume on the crimson morocco covered shelves can be seen. Opposite the entrance to the room there is a huge carved wood mantel shelf, surmounted by a sixteenth century ormolu clock of turquoise, with candelabra to match. Above the book cases are examples of paintings by European and American artists of repute; a Schreyer, “The Council of War,” “Eventide,” by Bastien Lepage; “Rest After Drill,” by E. Detaine; “Roaming,” by Rosa Bonheur; a flower piece by Robie, and paintings by Eastman Johnson, Alfred Bellows, Diaz and others. Cabinets, here and there, are filled with an embarrassment of riches in cameos, ivory earrings and curios; and pedestals are surmounted by bronzes and marbles. Inviting easy chairs, tapestry covered lounges and carved wood tables on which is a litter of papers and books, occupy the remaining spaces of this charming apartment, the open fire adding to its cheerfulness and beauty. The treasures here accumulated have been gathered from the famous libraries disposed of in various parts of Europe at private sales and from individuals who barter in such commerce in our own country. (“Many Rare Old Books,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10 April 1892.)

The Popes liked everything to be of the best quality, and they spent lavishly to achieve their goals. The library was illuminated by electric lights in the ceiling, using a system of patented Frink picture reflectors specially adapted to lighting art galleries. Their kitchen, remodeled in 1889, was admired as “probably the most perfect kitchen in this country,” filled with all the latest improvements in culinary design (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 October 1893).

Norton Q. Pope was never a particularly discriminating collector, being more interested in art as a status symbol. When he sold his art collection in 1896, a reviewer said:

“Mr. Pope’s paintings, as a whole, do not represent any especial idea in the taste of collecting; they are of many schools and in many keys. It is not possible to judge from them just what was the sentiment that directed their acquisition. Taken together as a collection they are not restful in effect.” (“The Pope Paintings,” The Sun, 19 January 1896). 

In contrast, it was said of Abby Pope that she “was a woman of rare literary taste and critical acumen, combined with a discriminating judgment and keen artistic appreciation. She collected books with enthusiasm, and with sound sense.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 26 October 1895). One hopes that Abby prevailed over her husband in the matter of decorating the rest of the library, as she certainly did with the selection of books to fill it.

While we cannot see the library room as it was during Abby’s time, I was able to find two interior photographs showing the space in 1910-1911, when it was used to host public functions and dances. Two advertisements for the Chateau du Parc show a long, ornate room with flat glass skylights, a fireplace in the center, and a bay window at one end. Judging by the skylights and the shape of the house, this room must be Abby Pope’s former library.

Wm. Pitt Rivers, Chateau Du Parc. Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac, 1910.

Chateau du Parc Conservatory of Music and Art, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 October 1911.

The Chateau du Parc photographs show a largely unfurnished room, suitable for use as an event space. From 1885 to 1894, this room would have been filled with the Popes’ books, art, and furniture.

Two sources can help to reconstruct the furniture of the room. The Brooklyn firm of Lang & Nau proudly advertised that they had designed “the beautiful library of Mr. N. Q. Pope, of Park place, Brooklyn, which stands alone in this country for its richness and workmanship.” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1 June 1886). Their trade cards, housed at the Brooklyn Museum, give an idea of the sumptuous style in which they would have furnished such a room.


Trade cards for Lang & Nau, Brooklyn, NY. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

After Abby’s death in 1894, Norton Q. Pope sold her book collection, his art, and much of the decorative furnishings from the house. While the book collection was never fully cataloged, the art and furniture were detailed in an 1896 sale catalog by American Art Galleries. Many of the paintings and decorative items may have been in the library, as well as a number of the furniture pieces:

  • Two library chairs. Carved oak; covered in heavy tapestry of floral pattern.
  • Elaborate library sofa. Carved oak; high back and pillow arms; covered in antique tapestry.
  • Two library sofas. Carved oak; high backs and pillow arms; covered in heavy tapestry of floral pattern.
  • Large library table. Quartered oak; artistically carved; antique design. Length, 84 inches; width, 48 inches; height, 33 inches.
  • Library table. Mahogany; elaborately carved ornamentation; has two large and two small drawers.
  • Two revolving book cases. Carved oak; four glass doors and four carved panels to each. Height, 54 inches; width and depth, 26 inches.
  • Two folio book cases. Carved oak; bevelled glass in doors; large drawer in tops. Height of each, 42 inches; width, 37 inches; depth, 30 inches.
  • Revolving book case. Oak; square shape; brass mouldings; bevelled glass all round.
  • Mahogany book cases. Set of twelve; have brass mouldings; plate glass in doors, and mirrors. The above were made to order and built in the library of Mr. Pope’s Brooklyn residence.

From the various architectural descriptions, building photographs, and furnishings, we can begin to get a sense of Abby Pope’s library as a physical space. She likely had considerable input into the design of her library, from the construction of the addition to the choice of furniture and decorations. Her father was not a book collector, and her husband was more interested in the art than the books.

Abby’s taste seems representative of a society lady at the pinnacle of the Gilded Age. Much like her rare book collection, her library as a space followed the model of the ideal gentleman’s private library in every particular. She must have taken pride in welcoming visitors to her library and showing them the treasures of her book collection in that beautiful room. Although the house is now gone, we can use the available evidence to reconstruct the room that once contained one of the finest private libraries in Brooklyn.

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The Library of Frances Mary Richardson Currer

Frances Mary Richardson Currer, photograph of a portrait by Masquerier. Image courtesy of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society.

Frances Mary Richardson Currer, photograph of a portrait by Masquerier, 1807. Image courtesy of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society.

To understand the largely 19th and 20th century history of American women book collectors, it is helpful to know the standard by which they were judged. In 1906, the London Times declared Miss Richardson Currer to be “the greatest woman book collector.” The New York Sun sprang to the defense of American bibliophiles,  claiming, “That title properly belongs … to Mrs. [Abby] Pope. Miss Currer formed an extensive library but not an important one.” The Publishers’ Weekly, covering the controversy, added the name of Cynthia Morgan St. John and concluded that “Each of these ladies deserves a fair and enduring place in the annals of bibliophilism as a well-informed and fearless book hunter.”

Frances Mary Richardson Currer (1785-1861) is often regarded as the first major female book collector. In Reminiscences of a Literary Life (1836), Thomas Frognall Dibdin wrote that she was “at the head of all female Collectors in Europe.” Seymour De Ricci called her “England’s earliest female bibliophile” in English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts (1930). While earlier women, mostly noble ladies, had collected finely-bound books as a pastime, it was often claimed that they did not do so from a true love of books. Miss Richardson Currer clearly loved books for their own sake. She inherited both the Richardson and Currer estates from her father, including a substantial library, to which she added greatly herself. It is also worth noting that she lived near the Brontë family and may have been the inspiration for Charlotte Brontë’s pen name of Currer Bell.

Eshton Hall Library from STEWART, C.J. A Catalogue of the Library Collected by Miss Richardson Currer, at Eshton Hall, Craven, Yorkshire. London: Privately printed, 1833. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Eshton Hall Library from C.J. Steward, A Catalogue of the Library Collected by Miss Richardson Currer, at Eshton Hall, Craven, Yorkshire. London: Privately printed, 1833. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1820, the London bookseller Robert Triphook compiled a catalogue of her library, Catalogue of the Library at Eshton Hall. The revised edition, published in 1833, includes several engravings of the library. While Frances Currer took a great pride in her library, she declined the offer to have her portrait included in Dibdin’s Reminiscences. She wrote, “I don’t doubt the Book will be an amusing one—and to have the Portraits of Gentlemen in it is very proper, but I don’t think it would be pleasant for me to be in the Gallery—the only Lady—so very conspicuous!” (Hunt, “Private Libraries in the Age of Bibliomania,” The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, 2014). Despite her friendship with Dibdin and his obvious respect for her as a book collector, he did not invite her to join the Roxburgh Club, the bibliophilic society he founded. The first woman to join that group would be the great collector Mary Hyde Eccles in 1985.

Armorial bookplate of Frances Mary Richardson Currer. Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Armorial bookplate of Frances Mary Richardson Currer in The Booke of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments. Edinburgh: Printed by Robert Young, 1637. Image courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Miss Richardson Currer was a close friend of Richard Heber, another ardent bibliomaniac whose own collection numbered over 100,000 volumes. In “Mighty Women Book Hunters,” (1929) A.S.W. Rosenbach recounted this possibly-apocryphal anecdote:

“Miss Richardson Currer owned a valuable library containing over fifteen thousand volumes, including a beautiful copy printed on vellum of the ‘Book of St. Albans.’ 1496, written by the first woman sports writer, Dame Juliana Berners. Richard Heber, probably the most enthusiastic book-collector who ever lived, tried to wheedle it out of her by hook or crook. Not succeeding by nefarious ways, he took the honorable method of proposing marriage. The lady, not caring to share the volume with a husband, indignantly refused. Good for her!”

Frances Currer had hoped that her library would remain in Eshton Hall after her death, but her family sold most of it at Sotheby’s in 1862.

Further Reading:
“Frances Currer.” The Bookhunter on Safari, November 10, 2011.

Gawthrop, Humphrey. “Frances-Mary Richardson Currer and Richard Heber: Two Unwearied Bibliophiles on the Fringe of the Brontë World.” Brontë Studies 27 (November 2002): 225–34.

Lee, Colin. “Currer, Frances Mary Richardson (1785-1861), Book Collector.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Lister, Anthony. “The Lady of Eshton Hall.” Antiquarian Book Monthly Review 12 (1985): pp. 382-389.

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In Pursuit of a Collector: Abby Ellen Pope, 1858-1894

Mrs. Norton Q. Pope

Mrs. Norton Q. Pope, photograph from Laura Geddes Smith, “Law Lectures for Women at the University of the City of New York,” The University Magazine vol. 10, no. 6 (June 1894): p. 256.

Abby Ellen Pope was one of the earliest American women book collectors to achieve national fame for her collection, although much of her life remains mysterious. The descriptions of her magnificent library are tantalizing, but reveal little of the woman behind the collection. The most comprehensive source for her biography is an article by Charles Ryskamp, published in The Book Collector in 1984.

The bookseller Bernard Quaritch described Mrs. Pope as “a very strong minded looking woman.” A portrait of Mrs. Pope painted by Benjamin Constant was sold after her death and its present location is unknown. Until recently, there were no known photographs of her. I found a picture of Mrs. Pope in a magazine article about the Woman’s Legal Education Society, of which she was a founder and director.

Abby Ellen Hanscom was born in Massachusetts in 1858 to Charlotte Ellen Pratt and John Hanscom. The family moved to Chicago in 1872, then to Brooklyn around 1885. We have no information about Abby Hanscom’s early education or how she began to collect books at such a high level. Early on, Abby must have received financial support from her father, a businessman who may or may not have been a book collector himself. Afterwards, her husband Norton Q. Pope apparently took an interest in book collecting as well, and certainly supported her own efforts.

In 1885 at the age of 27, Miss Abby Hanscom of Brooklyn suddenly emerged full-fledged as a serious book collector. Her triumph at the Osterley Park sale of Lord Jersey’s library is the most widely cited anecdote about this accomplished collector. At that sale, she outbid the British Museum to acquire one of the greatest books in her collection, the only known perfect copy of Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, printed in 1485 by William Caxton. According to The Literary Collector (1901), it sold for £1,950, but she paid two commissions on it: “one to her regular agent and one to the elder Quaritch, who purchased it.” It seems unlikely that this was in fact her first major book purchase. She must have started collecting books prior to the Osterley Park sale, in order to have the knowledge and confidence required to pursue something like the Caxton Malory.

The Morgan.

Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, purchased by Abby Hanscom in 1885, now in the Morgan Library. Image courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum.

By the time of Miss Hanscom’s marriage to Norton Quincy Pope in 1887, her collection was already well established. An article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, describing their wedding, included a description of John Hanscom’s library and art room at 241 Park Place, “fitted up at a cost of $350,000.” It included “the original of the ‘Merry Tales of King Arthur,’ which cost Mr. Hanscom $15,000; the oldest edition of Shakespeare in this country, which costs $10,000, and the original manuscript of the majority of Robert Burns’ poems.” After marriage, Abby and her husband resided at 241 Park Place, where those books remained part of her own library. John Hanscom may have initially purchased the books and paid for the library fittings, but it seems clear that the collection belonged to Abby herself. All news articles after that date describe the library as Mrs. Pope’s, with no mention of her father.

“Two Park Place Mansions.” Brooklyn Eagle, Saturday, October 19, 1901, p. 17.

“Two Park Place Mansions.” Brooklyn Eagle, Saturday, October 19, 1901, p. 17.

The Popes’ house in Brooklyn has since been demolished, but I was able to find a newspaper article from 1901 that includes a photograph of the front of the house. According to the Brooklyn Eagle (April 10, 1892), the library was an elegant room in a wing of the house, 65 feet by 25 feet, with a dome and stained glass windows.  “It is a beautiful and fitting resting place for the unique collections which fill it to overflowing–rare books, manuscripts, autographs, and objects of art. The bookcases which line the walls are of mahogany, and so fashioned that the title of every volume on the crimson morocco covered shelves can be seen. Opposite the entrance to the room there is a huge carved wood mantle shelf, surmounted by a sixteenth century ormolu clock of turquoise, with candelabra to match.”

From “The Library of a Brooklyn Bibliophile,” Pratt Institute Monthly (March 1894):

“This library, one of the choicest jewels of Brooklyn, it has been our privilege to examine, through the gracious hospitality of its owner; and by her kind permission we make mention here of some part of its rare and beautiful contents, reluctantly leaving undescribed many things of almost equal interest. 

The room, which has been built especially to hold these riches, is worthy of the precious things it guards. The light is peculiarly pleasing; it enters from above, through flat skylights of artistic pale-tinted glass, and at night a soft brilliancy is shed by electric lights, also situated above the ceiling. …

Shelves, drawers, easels, book-cases, are all of choice woods and workmanship; the very cases that enshrine individual volumes of especial rarity and value are themselves good specimens of the binder’s art.” 

Abby Pope collected illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, early English literature, Americana, fine bindings, and other great rarities. She was said to be particularly interested in perfect copies, and would wait patiently for the right book to appear. High points of her collection included:

  • Missal of Charles VI of France
  • Ptolemy’s Geography, 1478
  • Shakespeare first, second, third, and fourth folios, and various quartos
  • Caxton editions of Morte d’Arthur and Confessio Amantis
  • Spenser’s Faerie Queene, first edition of both parts (1590, 1596)
  • Zumarraga’s Doctrina Breve
  • Hubbard’s Present State of New England
  • John Norton’s Redeemed Captive
  • Filson’s Kentucky
  • Works of Robert Burns, extra-illustrated by Mrs. Pope with original mss

After such a promising beginning, Abby Pope’s life came to an abrupt end in 1894. While staying at their summer home in Maine near her parents, she died of apoplexy at the age of 37. In the aftermath of her death, everything changed. The following events seem more like a soap opera than real life, and raise more questions than they answer. In 1895, Norton Q. Pope had the barn and kennels taken down at their home in Maine, and the Hanscoms’ nearby summer home was destroyed by fire. Pope sold Abby’s entire library to Dodd, Mead & Co. and soon after disposed of the art and household goods from their home in Brooklyn.  At the same time, Brooklyn society was surprised to learn of his marriage to Jennie Barnes, a cousin and companion of the late Mrs. Pope. Norton Q. Pope and his second wife moved to Boston.

Norton Q. Pope also had a falling out with Abby’s parents, with whom he had previously had a close relationship. In 1895, he brought suit against the Hanscoms regarding ownership of the Park Place property in which he and Abby had lived, which the Hanscoms had just sold to P.W. Rouss. John Hanscom, accused of failing to pay his creditors, apparently absconded with the remaining funds and moved to Maine with his wife. By December of 1895, the Hanscoms had Abby’s remains moved from Brooklyn to the Hanscom family plot in Maine. Two years later, after a short illness, Norton Q. Pope died of pneumonia.

Tnyt_morganhe book collector Robert Hoe bought a large portion of the Pope library from Dodd, Mead in 1896, with the remainder sold by Dodd, Mead in several catalogues mixed with other books. Hoe disposed of some duplicates and other materials from the Pope library in a Christie’s sale in 1902. The Robert Hoe library, still including many of Abby’s books, was sold in 1911. Most of the finest books from the Hoe sale were purchased by dealer George D. Smith for Henry E. Huntington, with one notable exception. After a spirited round of bidding, Belle da Costa Green, librarian of J.P. Morgan, triumphed over Smith and acquired the Caxton Malory at a price of $42,800. The New York Times reported that “her victory evoked a hearty round of applause, and a number of persons personally congratulated her.” The Hoe sale sparked renewed interest in Abby Pope, who was identified as the previous owner of the Caxton Malory. In a report of the sale on March 30, 1911, The Nation referred to her as “the most notable woman book-collector America has produced.”

For such an important figure in American book collecting history, we still know relatively little about Abby Pope’s life or collection. No personal papers of hers are known to exist, and no complete catalogue of her library was ever printed. I hold out hope that one day her personal papers will be discovered somewhere in an attic in Brooklyn. Abby Pope accomplished so much in her short life; I wish we could have seen the book collection she might have built given more time.

Further Reading:

Ryskamp, Charles. “Abbie Pope: Portrait of a Bibliophile.” Book Collector (Spring 1984): 38-52.

“Pope, Abbie Ellen Hanscom.” In Dictionary of American Book Collectors, by Donald C. Dickinson (New York, 1986): pp. 262-263.

“Abbie Hanscom Pope.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 140: American Book-Collectors and Bibliographers, 1st Series , ed. by Joseph Rosenblum (Detroit, 1994): pp. 189-193

Update 11/8/16: After reviewing more primary sources, I have changed the spelling of Abby’s name from Abbie. While it is spelled multiple ways, the format “Abby E. Pope” is the one she most frequently used.

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Bookmaking on the Distaff Side

This gallery contains 30 photos.

Bookmaking on the Distaff Side is one of my favorite books in my women bibliophiles collection. It is a lovely book, produced in 1937 by an association of female printers called the Distaff Side. The book itself is a a compilation … Continue reading

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Estelle Doheny, Collector and Philanthropist

Estelle Doheny. Image source: Facebook page of the Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation.

Estelle Doheny. Image source: Facebook page of the Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation.

Carrie Estelle Betzold Doheny was born in Philadelphia in 1875. After high school, she worked as a telephone operator at the Petroleum Exchange Center until her marriage to oil tycoon Edward Laurence Doheny in 1900. Although overshadowed by her husband’s fame during her lifetime, she later achieved her own recognition as one of the most renowned American women book collectors of the twentieth century.

In 1901, the couple moved into a house at 8 Chester Place in Los Angeles, known thereafter as the Doheny Mansion. The mansion, lavishly redecorated with the finest artwork and furnishings by Mrs. Doheny, remained her primary residence until her death in 1958. Its famous rarities included the Pompeian Room, a spectacular marble and gold room with a Tiffany glass dome, and the Music Room, which contained a Steinway grand piano entirely gilded in gold leaf.

Edward L. Doheny and his lawyer, Frank J. Hogan. Photograph by Herbert E. French, National Photo Company, via Wikimedia Commons.

Edward L. Doheny (right) and his lawyer, Frank J. Hogan. Photograph by Herbert E. French, National Photo Company, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mrs. Doheny enjoyed a life of privilege and wealth, but the Doheny family was also touched by tragedy and scandal. Only five weeks after their wedding, Edward Doheny’s first wife committed suicide, and Estelle Doheny became the primary caregiver to their young son, Ned. In the 1920s, Edward Doheny became a key figure in the Teapot Dome Scandal, in which he was accused of offering a $100,000 bribe to Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall. His son Ned and friend Hugh Plunkett, who had withdrawn the cash and delivered it to Fall, were also implicated in the case. In 1929, the two men died in an apparent murder-suicide at Ned Doheny’s home, although the details remain unclear. Doheny was acquitted in 1930 of offering the bribe, but never fully recovered after the combined blows of the scandal, the stock market crash, and the loss of his only son. He remained an invalid until his death in 1935. As his health worsened, Estelle began to assume more of her husband’s social and business responsibilities, and continued to manage capably after his death. She founded the Estelle Doheny Eye Foundation, the Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation, and the Estelle Doheny Hospital and Pavilian at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, among other philanthropic projects.

Estelle Doheny first began collecting books during her husband’s trials in the 1920s. After receiving a copy of Merle Johnson’s High Spots of American Literature, she competed with her husband’s lawyer Frank J. Hogan to collect all 200 titles on the list. Hogan, himself an avid book collector, was one of Mrs. Doheny’s early mentors in the subject. Her other advisors included book collector A. Edward Newton, Philadelphia dealer A.S.W. Rosenbach, and California dealer Alice Millard.

"Countess Doheny Examining the Gutenberg Bible." Catalogue of the Books & Manuscripts in the Estelle Doheny Collection, Part Three. Los Angeles, 1955.

“Countess Doheny Examining the Gutenberg Bible.” Image from Catalogue of the Books & Manuscripts in the Estelle Doheny Collection, Part Three. Los Angeles, 1955.

Mrs. Doheny’s areas of interest included fine bindings, illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, and Western Americana. She liked to collect books featured in bibliographies, including A.E. Newton’s “One Hundred Good Novels,” the Grolier Club’s “One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature, and the Zamorano 80, a list of important Western American. Her autographed manuscript collection included all 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Inspired by a book on fore-edge paintings, she amassed one of the largest collections of fore-edge painted books in the world. By 1931, she had hired a private librarian, Lucille Miller, and that summer, her book purchases averaged a thousand dollars a day (Bonino, p. 101). In 1950, she acquired the “crowning achievement” of her collection, a complete Gutenberg Bible.


Catalogue of the Books & Manuscripts in the Estelle Doheny Collection, 3 vols. Los Angeles, 1940-1955.

The collection grew to approximately 7,000 books and 1,300 manuscripts. Lucille Miller compiled the first major catalogue of the Doheny collection,  published in three volumes between 1940 and 1955.


The Estelle Doheny Collection from the Edward Laurence Doheny Memorial Library: Part I. New York: Christie, Manson & Woods, 1987.

In 1940, Mrs. Doheny donated a large portion of her book collection to St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, to be housed in the Edward Laurence Doheny Memorial Library. However, the collection did not remain there. In 1985, church officials decided to sell the collection and use the proceeds to establish a teaching endowment. The Estelle Doheny collection was auctioned off at Christie’s in a series of six sales from 1987 to 1989. Sale proceeds were nearly $38 million, with the Gutenberg Bible alone selling for over $5 million (Davis, p. 282). The six volume catalogue plus index, with numerous illustrations, provides a wonderful record of the remarkable collection she built.

Further Reading:

Bonino, Mary Ann. The Doheny Mansion: A Biography of a Home. Los Angeles: Edizioni Casa Animata, 2008.

Cloonan, Michele V. “Alice Millard and the Gospel of Beauty and Taste.” Women in Print: Essays on the Print Culture of American Women from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006: pp. 159-178.

Davis, Margaret Leslie. Dark Side of Fortune: Triumph and Scandal in the Life of Oil Tycoon Edward L. Doheny. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Dickinson, Donald C. “Doheny, Estelle.” Dictionary of American Book Collectors. New York, 1986: pp. 94-96.

Schad, Robert O. “The Estelle Doheny Collection.” The New Colophon v. 3 (1950): p. 229-242.

Weber, Francis J. and Josephine Arlyn Bruccoli. “Carrie Estelle Doheny.” Dictionary of Literary Biography 140: American Book-Collectors and Bibliographers, 1st Series. Edited by Joseph Rosenblum, University of North Carolina. The Gale Group, 1994. pp. 64-69.


The Estelle Doheny Collection from the Edward Laurence Doheny Memorial Library. New York: Christie, Manson & Woods, 1987. 6 vols. and index.

My Doheny Collection:

Addresses at a Meeting of the Zamorano Club, May 6, 1950. Camarillo, Calif.: Edward Laurence Doheny Memorial Library, 1950.

The Book as a Work of Art: An Exhibition of Books and Manuscripts from the Library of Mrs. Edward Laurence Doheny. Los Angeles: Printed by W. Ritchie, 1935.

Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts in the Estelle Doheny Collection. 3 vols. Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie Press, 1940-1955.

The Estelle Doheny Collection from the Edward Laurence Doheny Memorial Library, St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, California. 6 vols, index. New York: Christie, Manson & Woods, 1987.

The Estelle Doheny Collection from St. Mary’s of the Barrens, Perryville, Missouri: Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, Friday 14 December 2001.

Lewis, James. Mrs. Doheny’s Bookplate. South Freeport, Maine: Ascensius Press, 2009. (Miniature book)

One Hundred Manuscripts and Books from the Estelle Doheny Collection in the Edward L. Doheny Memorial Library (Los Angeles, 1950).

Ritchie, Ward. The Dohenys of Los Angeles: A Talk Before the Zamorano Club on December 1, 1971. Dawson’s Book Shop, 1974.

A Selection of Books and Manuscripts from the Private Library of Mrs. Edward Laurence Doheny Exhibited in Connection with the Dedication of the Edward L. Doheny, Jr. Memorial Library.

C.E.D. "The Lady"

Weber, Francis J. C.E.D. “The Lady” (1988). Includes one of Estelle Doheny’s leather bookplates.

Weber, Francis J. The Estelle Doheny Collection of Californiana. 

Weber, Francis J. C.E.D. “The Lady.” Junipero Serra Press, 1988. (Miniature book)

Weber, Francis J. Southern California’s First Family: The Dohenys of Los Angeles.

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Miniature Books About Books

My miniature book collection.

Miniature book collecting is an occupation that can quickly take over your life. Miniature books cover a great range of time periods, geographical regions, and subjects. To restrain my collecting impulses, I only collect non-dollhouse miniature books if they fall into one of my other areas of interest, such as women bibliophiles, imaginary books, or books about books.

My Miniature Book Collection: 

Bahar, Ann. Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House Library. Scotland: Gleniffer Press, 1991.

A description of the library in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. British authors were invited to contribute handwritten texts, either original works or excerpts of their published works, to be bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe. Contributors included J.M. Barrie, A.A. Milne, Edith Wharton, and more.

Bellas, Patricia H. Women Printers in Early Maryland. Baltimore: Xavier Press, 1991.

Biographical sketches of Dinah Nuthead, Anne Catherine Green, and Mary Katherine Goddard, three early women printers in Maryland. Includes fold-out examples of their work.

Blumenthal, Walter Hart. Book Gluttons and Book Gourmets: With a Digression on Hungry Authors. Black Cat Press, 1961.

Anecdotes of book collectors and bibliomaniacs.

Blumenthal, Walter Hart. Formats and Foibles: A Few Books Which Might Be Called Curious. Worcester, Mass.: Achillle J. St. Onge, 1956.

Unusual book formats, such as jeweled bindings, books bound in human skin, and pop-ups.

Cheney, William M. Types in the Cases of William M. Cheney. Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1961.

Book of type specimens.

Collins, Evron S. Grande Dame. Cincinnati: Miniature Book Society, 2003.

 Biographical sketch of Ruth Adomeit, noted miniature book collector known as the “Grande Dame of Miniature Books.” Her collection is now held by the Lilly Library.

Dawson, Glen. Paper Samples: 1966. Los Angeles: W. Cheney, 1966.

Paper samples (toilet paper) collected by Glen Dawson during a trip to Europe in 1966.

Gladstone, William Ewart. On Books and the Housing of Them. Stephen Byrne at The Final Score, 2004.

A miniature edition of Gladstone’s tract on book shelving, first published in 1890. I first read about this work in Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, in a chapter titled “The P.M.’s Empire of Books.”

Klinefelter, Walter. The Fortsas Bibliohoax. Evanston, Illinois: Press of Ward Schori, 1992.

A miniature edition of Klinefelter’s book about the famous Fortsas Bibliohoax. The regular size version is in my collection of books about imaginary books.

Lewis, James. Mrs. Doheny’s Bookplate. South Freeport, Maine: Ascensius Press, 2009.

The story of the bookplate used by Carrie Estelle Doheny, the famous book collector. Includes a example of the leather bookplate.

Massmann, Robert E. Booboos and Typos: Discovered in Book Catalogs. REM Miniatures, 1985.

A collection of humorous typos excerpted from book catalogs.

Massmann, Robert E. The Werm Turns. REM Miniatures, 1983.

Advice on dealing with troublesome library patrons, including thieves, mutilators, book hiders, book markers, and noisemakers.

Massmann, Robert E. Ye Olde Librarian’s Curse. REM Miniatures, 1989.

A curse on “him who stealeth a book from this library.”

Petty, G. Harvey, compiler. Books: Sayings, Apothegms, Maxims, Epigrams. 

A collection of quotes about books.

Rickard, Kathryn I. A Lady and Her Books: The Biography of Doris Varner Welsh. Montreal: Roger Huet, Editions du Parnasse, 1988.

A biography of Doris Varner Welsh, a collector and printer of miniature books.

Rickard, Kathryn I. My Adventures in Minibibliomania. Cobleskill, N.Y.: KIR, 1996.

Reminiscences of the miniature collector Kathryn I. Rickard.

Sweet, Pat. The Book Book. Riverside, Calif.: Bo Press, 2010.

A reference for book lovers, providing labeled examples of parts of the book binding and printed text.

Sweet, Pat. The Great Bookworm Race. Riverside, Calif.: Bo Press, 2011.

A pop-up book in newspaper style, describing a bookworm race.

Sweet, Pat. This Is Not a Book. Riverside, Calif.: Bo Press, 2010.

Cover designs for imaginary books.

Weber, Francis J. C. E. D. “The Lady.” Junipero Serra Press, 1988.

About the collector Carrie Estelle Doheny and an example of her bookplate.

Weber, Francis J. Queen Mary’s Miniature Library. Junipero Serra Press, 1992.

Another book describing the library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House.


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Women Collectors in Their Own Words

From The Book-Hunter in London (1895).

Engraved frontispiece by L. Du Guernier to Steele’s Ladies Library (vol 1, 1714). From The Book-Hunter in London (1895).

It can be difficult to define exactly what it means to be a book collector or what kind of activity counts as collecting. Traditional definitions of book collecting have often neglected or even specifically excluded women. Therefore, I’m particularly interested in descriptions of book collecting by women themselves.

In Hobbies: Leisure and the Culture of Work in America, Steven M. Gelber observes:

“So pervasive was the conflation of men, market, and collecting that it has been difficult for most observers to even see that women were collecting, albeit in a style that was different from men. …The only women collectors taken seriously by men were those who collected on men’s terms. Those whose hobby was aesthetic or sentimental were stealth-collectors who simply disappeared from the historical radar.”

In Anatomy of Bibliomania, Holbrook Jackson claimed that “Book love is as masculine (although not as common) as growing a beard.” Thomas Dibdin wrote in The Bibliomania, or Book-Madness that bibliomania “has almost uniformly confined its attacks to the male sex, and among these, to people in the higher and middling classes.” Despite that perception, women have occasionally experienced the disease of bibliomania themselves. The culinary collector Elizabeth Robins Pennell wrote in My Cookery Books that “Dr. Hill Burton defines [book collecting] first as a ‘human frailty,’ then as a ‘peculiar malady,’ which is the definition I accept. Certainly I can trace my attack to its deadly germ.” In his essay “Mary Hyde and the Unending Pursuit,” Jerry Morris quotes collector Laura Barnes from a Rare Book Review article:

“I was recently informed, in a friendly but insistent manner, that only men can be great book collectors. It seems that men alone possess the necessary obsessive-compulsive behaviour to build important collections. Now, I am not one to seek out – let alone brag about – being afflicted with a psychological disorder, but I do consider myself a serious collector.”

To get beyond general claims about women as the enemies of books, or bibliomania as a strictly masculine pursuit, it helps to go straight to the source. Essays and memoirs by women bibliophiles can help us to understand their experiences and philosophies of book collecting in their own words.

Stray Thoughts of a Book CollectorMarjorie Wiggin Prescott wrote Stray Thoughts of a Book Collector in 1932, in which she describes her approach to book collecting.

“The field for bibliophiles is so large that it is difficult to choose the location where one hopes to build; one frequently feels like a child selecting a candy from an enormous box of sweets. At best, so little can be remembered of all there is to learn about books and literature, that it is wise to settle in a small corner of this book-site and it is advisable to build well and slowly, rather than erect an entire village and try to cover the available acreage too rapidly.”

The American Book CollectorIn 1933, Genevieve B. Earle wrote an article for The American Book Collector called, “Pandora Buys a Book: A Collector in Search of an Author,” in which she lamented that she did not know of any other women book collectors.

“Ever since, I’ve had an exciting time with books, bookshops, auction sales, etc., but never once have I seen or heard of a woman book-collector. Where do women book-collectors keep themselves? Have they no clubs, no haunts, no rendez-vous? The Land of Bibliophilia must be the Garden of Eden with the Adams in complete possession of all their ribs. …Recently I heard Dr. Rosenbach discuss in a fascinating way women as book-collectors; but his ladies were dear, dead, and gone,–Kings’ Mistresses, Queens and Princesses of Yesterday. Is it possible that in this most gorgeous field of hobbies, we have left you, my Brethren, an uncontested domain? Will the gate be forever barred to us? Strange, for it seems to be the one fine leisure interest men and women can pursue together.”

In response, there was an anonymous letter to the editor the following month, which asked:

“Why not? Why cannot the women have a ‘Hroswitha Club’ run along the same lines that the Grolier Club is for the men? I feel sure that many of our women librarians, collectors, bibliographers, and perhaps book-sellers would appreciate such a meeting-place where they could talk over their hobbies with fellow-enthusiasts.”

The Hroswitha Club of women collectors was in fact founded eleven years later in 1944. Whether this exchange of letters in The American Book Collector provided the inspiration is unknown.

Address to the Hroswitha ClubIn 1960, Miriam Y. Holden gave members of the Hroswitha Club a tour of her library on women’s history. She told them:

“We have all of us learned that the collecting instinct can be a most rewarding source of pleasure and satisfaction for the collector, regardless of the fact that no collection is ever complete or ever perfect. I disagree with Oliver Wendell Holmes who thinks ‘Every library should try to be complete on something, if it were only the history of pin heads.’

The search for the unattainable is always fascinating. The fun of seeking and securing becomes a form of sport. We are continually lured on, in spite of ourselves, by dealers and their unending flood of tempting catalogues in every language and from all corners of the earth.”

“What nobody still seems to know about woman, even at this mid-point of the twentieth century, is the reality of her historic meaning as a potent agent, in creating the patterns of society which are known to history. To reveal woman’s part in the making of long history, is the purpose of my library. I am trying to collect and make available to historians, students, and writers, the records of Woman’s Role in Civilization and show what her political and legal and economic status in various centuries and countries was, and what progress she was able to make in education, science, culture, and religions.”

The Miriam Y Holden collection of 6,000 volumes on women’s history is now housed at Firestone Library, Princeton.

Collector in BeingFrances Hooper’s pamphlet A Collector in Being, was also a talk given to the Hroswitha Club in 1973 about the origins of her collecting. She wrote:

“It is very pleasant and absorbing to be a collector. You just naturally are one. Or, I guess you aren’t.

There are three main difficulties, I have found, about collecting. 1–to keep on the main track of your principal collections and not to go afield. 2–to find the time to attend to what you already have and to enjoy these in depth. 3–to find compatible spirits with whom to share your enthusiasms and interests.”

There are big and little collectors and steady ones and spasmodic ones. And, people collect anything. Buttons to castles. There is no explaining the urge. If you have it, you can’t resist it. And it can so easily take you over. Take over your common sense and any sound monetary judgment if you ever had any.”

Frances Hooper’s collection of Kate Greenaway is now at the Hunt Library, Carnegie Mellon University. Her Virginia Woolf collection is at Smith College.


Mary Hyde EcclesMary Hyde Eccles: A Miscellany of Her Essays and Addresses, published by the Grolier Club in 2002, which includes the delightful essay “Grolier Watching, by a Lady,” recounting her experiences with the Club before women were first admitted to membership in 1976.

In “A Library of Dr. Samuel Johnson, she describes how her collecting interest started:

“My true interest in rare books began with graduate work in Elizabethan drama, and the determination (how it occurred I do not remember) of studying all the plays produced in London between 1600 and 1605 in their earliest available editions. This whimsy made me impose upon the good nature of custodians at the Huntington and Folger libraries, the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection and the famous Rosenbach Company. There is an emotional pleasure that is indescribable in touching the past so closely. This is not to say that such material must not be supplemented with all the relevant books of modern scholarship. It must. However the contemporary record strikes with a direct force that its translation can never recreate. I found myself ranging far afield, calling for celebrated books which had no bearing upon my subject, simply to see them. Though wholly aware of the deception, the custodians, without exception, were indulgent.”

The Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Johnson and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts is now at Houghton Library, Harvard.

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