New Exhibition “What Lies Beneath: The Macabre and Spooktacular of Special Collections”

Poster for the exhibition "What Lies Beneath," with a view of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library: the outside of the building above ground and the service area and the stacks below ground.

Cross-posted from Notes from Under Grounds, the blog of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

Just a stone’s throw away from #13 West Range—the purported room of the University of Virginia’s masterful matriculate of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe—the Reference Team of the Small Special Collections Library have ferreted out a frightening and ghoulish collection of items for the exhibition “What Lies Beneath: The Macabre and Spooktacular of Special Collections,” on display through December 21, 2019 in the library’s first-floor gallery.

From the library’s world-renowned subterranean treasure trove of more than 16 million objects, Special Collections staff have left no page unturned, no manuscript box unopened, to disinter the dark side of Special Collections—a pop-up of Poe’s The Raven; a miniature of his story “The Tell-Tale Heart”; a broken windowpane believed to be from his room on the Range, etched with characteristically macabre verse; a copy of Oliver Cromwell’s death mask; a leather book edged with shark teeth; a fierce hound’s face, part of the leather binding for a miniature book, The Hound of the Baskervilles: Conclusion & Retrospection.

This exhibition is designed to whet the appetite of ghoul seekers young and old. Come meet James Steele, the Revolutionary War soldier who lost his head and lived to tell about it; have a Dance with Death; perhaps sample an embalming recipe that’s simply to die for. As you explore this exhibition, we hope you will go, in the words of Edgar Allan Poe, “[d]eep into that darkness peering … wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal dared to dream before.”

Display case featuring a pop-up book about spiders opened to a page with the image of a spider popping out.

There are more than 3,000 species of spiders roaming around North America, even a few right here in the stacks, including The Spider, written by Luide Woelflein and illustrated by Tomo Narashima, from the Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-up and Moveable Books.

Display case of Poe items in the exhibition: a pop-up book of Poe's The Raven and miniature book of his story "The Tell-Tale Heart."

Edgar Allan Poe miniatures of “The Tell-Tale Heart” 2015, on loan from a private collection, and Poe, Master of Macabre, from the McGehee Miniature Book Collection, and The Raven: A Spectacular Pop-Up Presentation of Poe’s Haunting Masterpiece, from the Robert & Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund. The broken windowpane on view in the exhibition—believed to be from Poe’s Room 13 on the West Range—is etched with the following verse: O Thou timid one, let not thy / Form rest in slumber within these / Unhallowed walls, / For herein lies / The ghost of an awful crime.

Display case featuring a raccoon skin, a fierce hound's face (the biding for a book about Conan Doyle's Holmes story "The Hound of the Baskervilles"), and a leather book edged with shark teeth."

A raccoon coat and tail, from the Marion DuPont Scott Sporting Collection, a leather book, Fantasy & Nonsense: Poems, edged with shark teeth, from the James Whitcomb Riley Collection in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library, and a miniature book bound in black calf suede and leather with colored leader onlays and shaped into the head of a hound by fine bookbinder Jarmila Sobata for The Hound of the Baskervilles: Conclusion & Retrospection, the McGehee Miniature Book Collection

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