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Picturing a World

Belle da Costa Greene

Who knew?!? Maybe you did, but I sure didn't know that J.P. Morgan's private librarian and eventual first director of the great Morgan Library in New York was a woman. Not only that—a woman of African-American descent. Belle da Costa Greene. I have just run across her in what might seem an unlikely source, Christopher de Hamel's endlessly entertaining and deeply informative Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts. The connection, of course, is a manuscript in the Morgan Library. But that's another story for another day.

The point for this blog is that Belle da Costa Greene, the daughter of Harvard's first Black graduate, began working for Morgan in 1905, which puts her squarely in my Mattie's New York world. Well, not squarely; she moved in circles way up the social and intellectual ladder from Mattie's bohemian and Grub Street crew. Still, I'm going to explore her to see what Mattie and her friends might hear and gossip about. Among other things, Belle da Costa Greene passed for white, and that certainly fits in with Mattie's leading three secret lives.
And then more room for exploration, Paul César Helleu, the real Jeanette's exact contemporary. Jeanette's Parisian art world touches down in Mattie's New York. No wonder ANONYMITY never gets finished; the research just keeps getting richer.

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