Digitizing Edith Wharton’s Library

The EdithWhartonsLibrary.org project began during the summer of 2015 with funding from the University of North Dakota. Work on this project is multi-phased and ongoing, and is made possible through the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars, students, researchers, and curators working in cooperation with The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home. 

From Lapham’s Quarterly:

The venture underway at the Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts, is particularly satisfying; it’s the culmination of a story that bibliophiles and Wharton fans have been following for over a decade. After much negotiation, the Mount purchased, in 2005, one of Wharton’s two libraries from a bookseller who had spent fifteen years reconstructing it. The sale price of $2.6 million nearly bankrupted the Mount. When the books were installed on its oak shelves, however, it was hard to dispute that the right decision had been made. Yet in order to make the collection navigable—since you’re discouraged from simply pulling one off the shelf during a house tour and more than half of the books remain inaccessible in attic storage—it would take large-scale digitization. Sheila Liming, assistant professor of English at the University of North Dakota, took up that challenge in 2015. Liming has been working on a digital database that reproduces Wharton’s library, with each volume viewable on a page-by-page basis, so that none of the author’s annotations on her copy of John Donne’s Poems(1669), for example, goes unnoticed. The project is nearly complete.

“Engaging with her books has helped me to see her as a reader and as an autodidact, as opposed to an author in the monolithic sense,” said Liming, whose book on the subject, What a Library Means to a Woman, will be published in December.