In Pursuit of the Picturesque, an exhibition featuring British color plate books published between 1776 and 1868, will open at the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery, located in the Firestone Library lobby, on Jan. 22.
Showcasing selected items from the collection of Leonard L. Milberg, Princeton University Class of 1953, the exhibition includes nearly 40 large books with colorful, detailed imagery from the British Empire at the turn of the 19th century. This selection from Milberg’s collection of 115 color plate books portrays an expanding global empire at the advent of lithographic printing, which captured color and imagery with more beauty and ease than ever before.
Milberg has collected color plate books since the 1980s, though his love of art began in the 1950s. During his Army days in Alaska, he devoted his time to reading American art books. Milberg started collecting American prints, then discovered American printmakers who were English emigres, which led to his interest in British color plates.
“They tell a wonderful story through pictures,” said Milberg. “If you take a book in your hands, you can hold Edward Lear’s parrots and hear the crackling of the old paper. It’s much different from a painting, which is only a visual experience.”
Princeton University Library’s Emma Sarconi, reference professional for Special Collections, who co-curated the exhibition with Stephen Ferguson, associate university librarian for external engagement, and Jennifer Meyer, curatorial assistant for Special Collections, said topics range from history to horticulture, from martial achievements to topographical scenery.