Monday, October 31, 2011

Historic Deerfield Collections

Color collection comes to Historic Deerfield

In 2009, the library of Stephen L. Wolf of New York City, a man described in his New York Times obituary as “the professor of paint,” came to Historic Deerfield as a bequest.

Mr. Wolf operated a Manhattan paint store that his grandfather had founded in the 1860s. He also read widely, and was passionate about his vocation. Over the course of half a century, Stephen Wolf amassed a collection of approx 1,300 books plus numerous pamphlets, trade catalogs and price lists, periodicals, and ephemera dating from the 16th century to the present.

Broadly speaking, Mr. Wolf’s library focuses on color. The topics represented include works on carriage painting, fine art, interior decoration, japanning, color theory, wall painting and wall treatments, dyeing, enameling and glazing, theatrical set design, art restoration, historic preservation, recipe books, the manufacture of varnishes and paint, company histories, architectural pattern books, tools of the trade, gilding and the chemistry of color. Some of the gems in his collection relate to tangential interests, such as a London, 1601 edition of Pliny the Elder’s Historie of the World; Commonly called the Natural Historie, and Mechanick Dialling or; The New Art of Shadows (London, 1769), a treatise on sundials and time measurement by Charles Leadbetter. Other notable titles include Isaac Newton’s Opticks, or, A Treatise of the Reflections, Inflections and Colours of Light (London, 1718), and the rare, earliest printing of John Stalker’s Treatise of Japaning and Varnishing; Being a Compleat Discovery of those Arts (London, 1688), prior to his partnership with George Parker.

Few institutions, regardless of size, can claim a specialized collection equaling that assembled by Stephen Wolf; the only comparable being the Faber Birren Collection at Yale. Bibliographic records for the Wolf Collection can be searched in our online catalog: By choosing a call number search and simply entering the letter W, a list of all the Wolf items will appear in call number order. Questions about the collection can be directed to:

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