As the year comes to a close and we pass through the holidays, your Redwood Librarians have been revisiting some of our favorite treasures in our collection as we make plans for the new year. One of our most unique pieces has long been a book designed and illuminated by James Eddy Mauran (1817-1888) of Newport as a memorial to his sister, Theresa. Recently, we discovered another illuminated manuscript by Mauran in our collection, enriching our understanding of the man and the artist.
James Eddy Mauran was born June 8, 1817 to Orondates and Martha (Eddy) Mauran. He was a scholar, well versed in many languages, who became a bookseller and senior partner of Mauran & Philes. His fondness for rare and antique books, works of art, and the fourteenth century came to him naturally and are preserved in the illuminated manuscripts he produced. When he retired from his business, he moved to Newport and built a home on Rhode Island Ave where he spent the rest of his life. Mauran was President of the Redwood Library’s Board of Directors from 1882 to 1883 and died November 27, 1888 in Newport.
Mauran’s sister Theresa was born June 27, 1832 and died November 15, 1856 at the age of 24. In her memory, he created Theresa, Her Booke a collection of poems in English, Latin, Italian, and French with rich illumination on each page. One of the poems in English reads: “Pleasure that comes unlooked for, is thrice welcome; and, if it stir the heart, if aught be there, that may hereafter in a thoughtful hour wake but a sigh, ‘tis treasured up among the things most precious, and the day it came, is noted as a white day in our lives.”
Each poem speaks of loss, sorrow, joy, and hope in equal measure as Mauran mourns his sister and remembers her presence in his life. The book is beautifully bound and complete with all-edge gilt, a gold metal clasp, and a bookmark that is made from Theresa’s hair.
The other work by Mauran in our collection is certainly less personal than his memorial for his lost sister, but no less beautiful. In 1851, Mauran illuminated a manuscript titled La Table Ronde for his friend John Austin Stevens Jr. His illustrations of the heraldic shields of the Knights of the Round Table are taken from an old book, La Devise des armes des chevaliers de la Table Ronde, Lyon, 1590. Each page of this manuscript is illuminated with Mauran’s distinctive style and colors.
The book was bound by William Matthews (1822-1896) who was born in Scotland and became a prominent member of the artistic community in 19th century Brooklyn, New York. He was working as a bookbinder for his father-in-law in New York for several years before he won the silver medal in fine bookbinding at the International Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in New York City in 1853, which was the highest honor awarded at the Exhibition. His binding of La Table Ronde was part of this award-winning exhibition and it’s muted red and green color palette make it a perfect way to close out this pre-Christmas blog post.
We hope you will join us in the new year for a public open house vault showing in February where treasures like these will be available for viewing! Happy Holidays!