The book collection in the Epstein Archive have been sitting on a few shelves in the basement of the gallery for a number of years. A few researchers have studied these books, but it is only now that I have come to catalogue them and some real discoveries have come to light. The books themselves were taken out of the house that Kathleen Garman lived in until her death in 1979. The collection covers 4 generations of the Garman and Garman-Epstein families, dating back to Kathleen’s parents in Wednesbury, books belonging to Theodore Garman and to those given to Kathleen by her grandchildren, Anne and Annabel Freud.
Amongst the collection we have a large selection of Shakespeare, a 1st edition of Bleak House by Charles Dickens and one or two James Bond books for a bit of balance. The books themselves are fascinating as they reveal the reading habits of the family. However, what is really interesting are the inscriptions in many of the books – these little fragments of writing give a unique insight into the world of the family. I would like to share just a few examples of the discoveries that I’ve made today – things are appearing all the time, far too many to write about here, but 2 inscriptions that were found this morning are particularly interesting – not in any great revelatory way, just in their insight into normal life that they give us.
From Esther Garman to her mother Kathleen, inscribed in Dante’s La Divina Comedia.
This book was particularly unusual as it contains some pressed flowers, which are very fragile. We have no may of knowing if the flowers were part of the gift from Esther to her mother, or if they were added later, but this was a really nice find and the flowers are certainly very old indeed. It is always slightly special when we find something new relating to Esther, as Bob and Roberta Smith have taken such an interest in her and her story when creating works of art inspired by the archive. The exciting thing is that there is more information on her in this archive, waiting to be discovered.
From Ralph Gustafson and ‘Ian’ to Sally Ryan, inscribed in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
This is a particuarly great inscription as you can decipher a surprising amount of information from it. Sally Ryan was a friend of Kathleen Garman and she helped create the Garman Ryan Collection that the gallery houses. A few of the books in the archive were Sally’s that may have found their way into Kathleen’s bookshelves through Sally’s will. The above inscription reads:
“To Tammy Ryan
a rummy prize winner, from the defeated
October 22, 1938
Ralph is Ralph Gustafson, a poet and friend of Sally Ryan, Ian is unknown and Tammy was Sally’s nickname. Also included in the picture is a feather that was inside the book. What we can gather from this is that the book was a prize given to Sally after she had beaten Ralph and Ian at rummy, a card game. The time on the inscription suggests that it was written after an evening’s cards had ended, with Sally emerging victorious with her copy of Dostoyevsky as her prize. This book has made the remarkable trip from Silvermine, Connecticut, to Walsall and all because Sally Ryan was a good at cards.