UVa Library Press Releases 1996 - 1997
Rare Books, Maps, Images Tell Story of Virginia's
Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley
Contact: Kathryn Morgan at (804) 924-4965 or e-mail: email@example.com
April 18, 1997 -- "Landmarks of American Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley," the latest exhibition from the University of Virginia Library's Special Collections Department, will open on April 27 in the McGregor Room of Alderman Library and remain on view through July 14.
Featuring more than 150 rare books, manuscripts, maps, engravings and photographs, the exhibition documents the rich heritage of nature literature written about western Virginia from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries.
Housed in 19 display cases, the exhibition is divided into three parts:
Part I, "Early Encounters," presents regional nature writing from the colonial and early Republic periods, including first editions of some of the most important documents of early American literature.
Part II, "Jeffersonian Legacies," examines the reactions of nineteenth-century travelers to the natural landmarks Thomas Jefferson described in "Notes on the State of Virginia" (1785), including such well-known tourist attractions as Harpers Ferry, the Peaks of Otter, and the Natural Bridge.
Part III, "Changing Times," explores more recent representations of Virginia's landscape, beginning with fictional texts from the antebellum period and ending with modern memoirs and nature essays.
Writers represented in the exhibition include John Smith, Robert Beverley, William Byrd, Mark Catesby, William Bartram, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John James Audubon, William Cullen Bryant, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, John Burroughs, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ellen Glascow, Willa Cather, William Carlos Williams, Earl Hamner, and Annie Dillard.
The opening of the exhibition will coincide with the 11th International Conference of the Society for the History of Natural History, meeting at the University of Virginia on April 27-29. Some 60 attendees, including museum and library curators, botanists, zoologists and nature artists from throughout North America and Europe, are expected at the conference. Discussion topics will focus on the relationships in natural history between North America and Europe.
A special presentation commemorating the 350th anniversary of the birth of nature artist Maria Sybilla Merian will be given by Florence Pieters of the University of Amsterdam in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. April 27. The talk is open to the public.
The extensive library exhibition is curated by U.Va. English literature doctoral student Daniel J. Philippon, co-editor of "The Height of Our Mountains: Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley," a 450-page anthology forthcoming from the Johns Hopkins University Press in Spring 1998.
Among many rare items, all from the U.Va. Library, on display will be a 1672 map by explorer John Lederer, the first European to reach the Blue Ridge Mountains and document his discoveries; a 1762 copy of "Flora Virginica" by John Clayton, one of the most active early plant collectors and itinerant naturalists in the Blue Ridge-Shenandoah region; an 1838 copy of Poe's "Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," with passages suggesting his close knowledge of the springs of western Virginia; and an unpublished manuscript fragment from Willa Cather's 1940 novel, "Sapphira and the Slave Girl," which describes the lush foliage around Winchester.
A limited-edition catalogue of the exhibit will be published, and an electronic version of the display will be posted on the library's World-Wide Web site at http://www.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/nature/.
For additional information about the exhibit or conference please contact Kathyrn Morgan, associate director of special collections at the U.Va. Library, at (804) 924-3025.
Television reporters should call our TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.