An Illuminated Life

An Illuminated Life

Belle Da Costa Greene's Journey From Prejudice to Privilege

Book - 2007
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What would you give up to achieve your dream? When J. P. Morgan hired Belle da Costa Greene in 1905 to organize his rare book and manuscript collection, she had only her personality and a few years of experience to recommend her. Ten years later, she had shaped the famous Pierpont Morgan Library collection and was a proto-celebrity in New York and the art world, renowned for her self-made expertise, her acerbic wit, and her flirtatious relationships. Born to a family of free people of color, Greene changed her name and invented a Portuguese grandmother to enter white society. In her new world, she dined both at the tables of the highest society and with bohemian artists and activists. She also engaged in a decades-long affair with art critic Bernard Berenson. Greene is pure fascination--the buyer of illuminated manuscripts who attracted others to her like moths to a flame.
Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2007.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780393051049
Branch Call Number: BIO GREENE B. Ardizzon 07/2007
Characteristics: 580 p., [32] p. of plates :,ill. ;,25 cm.


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Feb 16, 2015

Intriguing biography with heavy emphasis on the racial and cultural milieu from which Greene(r) sprang. Through intelligence and pluck, she upended the librarian stereotype. The work gets bogged down with speculation on the unknown aspects of Greene's life, and the author lacks some insight into the bibliophillic world of robber baron collectors. In short, a stronger editorial hand could have been exercised. But, in sum, a worthy, considerate biography.

Mar 25, 2012

What is rarely known about her is that she was black and "passed" for White. Fascinating story.


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