Wifredo Lam and Graham Greene

Over my past three years working as Assistant Conservator at the Burns Library, one project has been a constant: jacketing the Graham Greene collection. On Monday, March 26th, 2018, I finally wrapped the final dust jacket in a sheet of mylar. This final book–just by chance–was quite a special volume.

Before I explore this last volume, some background is required. Firstly, what is the Graham Greene collection? Graham Greene is a celebrated, 20th century, British author. The bulk of the collection was purchased in 1995 from Bloomsbury Book Auctions. His notable works include novels such as The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The Third Man, as well as plays like “The Living Room” and “The Potting Shed”. He also wrote travel books, essays, children’s stories and autobiographies.

Greene’s Library, along with a large amount of archival material including correspondence and notes, includes his entire canon as well as books given to the author and those that he chose to add to his own collection. As an established and gifted author, the Graham Greene collection is quite substantial.

Due to the valuable nature of this collection, conservation staff decided to protect the books’ dust jackets with a second cover in thin plastic called mylar in order to preserve the paper covers as well as to protect the books themselves. This is a time consuming processes that requires measuring out mylar as well as cutting and folding the excess to perfectly cover the dust jacket.

After three years, we reached the final volume in the Graham Greene collection. A part of the “Oversized” collection, Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam by Alain Jouffroy is an impressive volume. The most impressive part of the two part set is the title page of the first volume (Image 1). Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam was sent as a gift to Graham Greene from Wifredo Lam, most likely due to the friendship between the two men.

Title page of

Title page
Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam Alain Jouffroy
John J. Burns Library, Boston College

According to Wifredo Lam’s website, Greene had consulted Lam when writing his spy novel, Our Man in Havana, and the two took dinner together when Lam visited Paris. This relationship between two creative men may not have been widely known but it was close enough for Lam to send, sign and illustrate the copy of Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam for Graham Greene.

The illustration and signature of Wifredo Lam is quite distinctive. The inscription reads “Pour Graham-Greene / Souvenir et Amitie / AM Paris – / 5-1-1946”. Translated this means “For Graham Greene, a reminder and friendship” with the date and location, Paris, January 5th, 1946. It is interesting that Lam decided to write the inscription in French, neither man’s native language. This could be attributed to the men’s Parisian dinner parties or the language in which Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam is written.

Imagining New Worlds

“Imagining New Worlds: Wifredo Lam”
Courtesy of The McMullen Museum of Art

The illustration by Lam shows his signature style with three imaginative creatures created with just a few simple lines. These creatures show the playfulness and creativity present in his art. Lam relies heavily on line and color in his paintings to create illustrations of his world.

In the fall of 2014, The McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College’s on campus museum, hosted an exhibition of Lam’s work, “Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds” curated by Elizabeth Goizueta, professor of Romance Languages and Literature at Boston College. This was the first show I ever worked on in my time at Boston College.

Imagining New Worlds 2

“Imagining New Worlds: Wifredo Lam”
Courtesy of The McMullen Museum of Art

I started as a Museum Intern at the McMullen in 2014, my first semester freshman year. Here, I worked with Kate Shugert and Diana Larsen to organize and publicize current and upcoming exhibitions and when I joined the ranks of the McMullen interns as a freshman, “Imagining New Worlds” was my first charge. Because I came in after the show had been curated and installed, my main job was updating the McMullen’s social media with images from the exhibition and reviews from local and national publications. “Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds” introduced me to the museum world and for that holds a significant place in my career and future in the industry.

The discovery of Le nouveau Nouveau monde de Lam and the inscription of the artist himself as the last tome in Graham Greene’s collection created a lovely bookend to my four years at Boston College. After three years working at the Burns Library, and three years of wrapping dust jackets in mylar I finally reached the finish line. It was an accomplishment that I by no means completed alone, but in the final days of my final semester it was bittersweet to see the Graham Greene jacketing chapter of my academic career come to a close with a souvenir from my first days at B.C.

Author photo

Haley Carey, Boston College Class of 2018, Conservation Intern

 

 

Bibliography:

“Chronology 1962 – 1977”, Wifredo Lam, 2017,  

http://www.wifredolam.net/en/chronology/1962-1977.html

“Graham Greene at the Burns Library”, Boston College Libraries, Spring 2016,

https://library.bc.edu/newsletter/?p=41

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
This entry was posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Art at the Burns Library, British Catholic Authors, Conservation, Student Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wifredo Lam and Graham Greene

  1. J.B. Walsh says:

    Well done article as has been all your work here.!

  2. Francis McLaughlin says:

    Lovely article Haley and I’d say this even if you weren’t my granddaughter Congratulations on work well done. I read many of Graham Greene’s books many years ago. Along with Francois Mauriac and Evelyn Waugh Greene was prominent and popular among contemporary Catholic authors when I was much younger than I am today.

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