Embury donates art book collection to UNL Libraries

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UNL Libraries announced that it has received more than 11,000 books and exhibition catalogues donated by Stuart P. Embury, M.D., of Holdrege, a 1966 graduate of UNL and 1969 UNMC graduate. Embury amassed what is considered one of the top private book collections on American art in the United States over 40 years.

The Stuart P. Embury MD Library of American Art contains primary material and books covering all major and many minor figures in American Art, including painters, sculptors and printmakers. There are thousands of exhibition catalogues including nearly complete runs from the National Academy of Design and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Some of the titles were published in the 1800s. There are numerous catalogue raisonnes of major artists work such as Whistler, Remington, Inness and many others.

"The UNL Libraries is proud to have the Stuart P. Embury Library of American Art and we've been working with Dr. Embury to renovate the archives reading room to properly house and showcase the incredible collection," said Joan Giesecke, dean of libraries.

A celebration of the donation and renovated reading room is in the early planning stages. The cataloging of the books is almost complete. Staff will then catalog the thousands of exhibition catalogues.

Norman Geske, professor emeritus of art, said "The Stuart P. Embury Library of American Art is an important asset to the libraries and the university, especially for graduate students working on the master's of arts in art history. I am so pleased that it was donated."

Wendy Katz, associate professor of art and art history, finds the rich collection of exhibition catalogues and books published in the early 20th century helpful to her research on the painter James McNeill Whistler. "The Embury Library contains primary resource material contemporary to Whistler and demonstrates how early 220th-century authors and scholars were thinking about Whistler at that time."

Dr. Embury's collection began soon after he moved to Holdrege and with the need to decorate the new home. Purchasing prints for the walls led to a thirst for learning more about the artist, which led to the purchasing of reference materials and catalogues.

"I bought a Mary Cassatt etching and of course I needed a book on Cassatt. This pattern was repeated many times," he said.

Two dealers became his major source of books, one in New York and one in Philadelphia. They both sent Embury their choice items. Gradually over 40 years the collection grew to more than 11,000 volumes. Rare and unusual items include: "The Book of the Tile Club," the original Armory Show Catalogue from 1913, a signed copy of a book by Rembrandt Peale (c. 1823), an inscribed copy of "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies" signed by Whistler and inscribed to Degas, and many other items.

According to Embury, the library could not be duplicated today for any amount of money as many early items have disappeared from the marketplace. "Searching for and collecting the books and fine art has provided a great counterpoint to my medical practice and has greatly enriched our life," he said.

Embury said his motivation for moving the collection to the University Archives and Special Collections, is because he wants "to share it with the world."

The University Archives and Special Collections is in Love Library, Room 29, open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and can be reached at 472-2531.

- By Joan Barnes, University Libraries