The DMA’s Mayer Library staff spent the last two months cataloging books from the Reves Library. At the start of the project, only one hundred or so books from the Reves Collection were searchable in the library’s catalog. We knew there were important books that had not yet been entered that could significantly improve research on the collection, if only they were more accessible. Taking advantage of the temporary closure of the Reves Grand Salon and Library for refurbishment this past February, we embarked on a project to do just that.
It required removing all nine hundred and fifty art and antiquarian books from the shelves in the Reves Library, transferring them on book carts through the Museum galleries to the Mayer Library, and then, one by one, cataloging each book in the library’s database. To give you a sense of how large an endeavor this was, our two catalogers usually catalog three hundred books in the same time frame.
Most of the books in the Reves Library are art related, with an emphasis on areas in which the couple collected, including many rare gallery and exhibition catalogues. The library also contains collections of writings by Winston Churchill, translations of Emery Reves’ Anatomy of Peace, and a significant collection of antiquarian books—one of the earliest dating back to 1547, Il Petrarcha con l’espositione d’Alessandro Vellutello, a commentary on Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta.
As the project progressed, interesting findings began to emerge that brought Wendy and Emery Reves and the history of the DMA collection to life. For example, auction catalogs annotated by Emery Reves gave us a glimpse into their collecting habits and interests. Lot 18 of this Sotheby’s catalogue from 1974 was Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Isabelle Lemonnier with a Muff, now in the DMA’s collection; however, it wasn’t Wendy and Emery Reves who purchased it. A close-up of the annotation reads “100,000 Schmit (Paris).” That is a reference to Galerie Schmit. According to the provenance for this painting, it was then acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Algur Meadows, who gifted it to the DMA in 1978.
The keen eye of our cataloger discovered this bookplate of Paul Iribe, a French fashion illustrator and interior designer, on the last page of Spinoza’s Ethique. Iribe died in 1935 while visiting Coco Chanel at La Pausa, the French Riviera villa later owned by Wendy and Emery Reves.
With a mix of satisfaction, relief, and a tinge of sadness, the books have all been returned to the shelves of the new and improved Reves Library.
You can browse through a list of the rest of the books from the Reves Collection in the library’s online catalog.
Jenny Stone is the Librarian at the Dallas Museum of Art.