On a wonderful warm (85 degrees!) southern California day, I ventured on over to San Marino, just outside of Pasadena, to the Huntington Library Museum and Botanical Gardens where I had invited readers and fans--25 of them--to come for an afternoon of history lecture, conversation, and tea!
After we had gathered, I handed out nametags and little gifts, goodie bags with a Crispin votive, a sword pen, a knight rubber duckie, and a small scroll with hints about Crispin books to come.
And then we were off. I explained how I pretty much grew up going to musems all over Los Angeles, because in those long ago days, it was free! No more. But as a free activity for a family of five, we came to the Huntington, and I was captivated by the art, the sculptures, the gardens (and rolling down the long grassy hill--which I did NOT do today) and then later by the Library's collection of medieval manuscripts, including Mr. Chaucer's.
This is the library, which was the old Henry Huntington mansion. After he had amassed a fortune as a railroad magnate, he started buying art and manuscripts from Europe, like the rest of his buddies Getty and Hearst. When he died in 1927, he left his entire collection and the acres and acres of his estates to the public. Before he died, it was the largest private collection of 18th century paintings in the world. When they opened the gallery to the public in 1928, it was the biggest public gallery in California at the time.
This is the art gallery. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to go there today. Inside is Pinkie and Blueboy. I urged my guests to arrive earlier than I had scheduled so they could see something of the gardens and art gallery.
One of my favorite spots as a kid. This is a sculpture garden. At the end is a Koi pond. But for Dr. Who fans, this garden probably has extra meaning. (Don't blink!)
Then it was off to the Shakespeare garden where only the flowers and plants mentioned in the plays are planted here.
You get to pass over a stone footbridge before entering. All the flowers are in bloom. Sorry folks back east.
And then it was off for the Jeri lecture. I brought exhibits for Show and Tell. A quill; a calligraphy project from college so I could talk about using the quill's nib and the manipulation of the scribe's fingers to make the thin and thick lines; Geoffrey Chaucer and the Ellesmere Manuscript--how it was created not long after Chaucer's death in 1400 (between 1400 and 1410 or so), that it is the definitive Canterbury Tales and was penned by Chaucer's own frequently hired scribe, Adam Pinkhurst, and so the depiction of Chaucer in the very large parchment book is an authentic representation of the poet. I was raised with Chaucer, with hearing the words in Middle English, of that child's version of the Canterbury Tales I read as a kid, to this manuscript that I remembered so well as a kid from poring over it when my family visited the Library.
The first thing I directed them to once we were inside. Because the Library is being refurbished, their manuscript collection was moved to a temporary gallery. And also because this is a one-of-a-kind book, the real one was NOT on display, but a color facsmilie instead. I don't blame them. I'd keep it safe, too.
Medieval manuscripts. As beautiful as the day they were made, because unlike paintings or frescoes, they aren't exposed to light or the elements. They were shut up in books and remain beautiful and bright.
We chatted about the various details of making these works of art, looked at the Shakespeare folios and I got to point out places on a large map of 16th century London, and then it was on to tea!
Scones and tiny sandwiches and lots of wonderful tea...and company! I'm sorry we couldn't all be seated at one table, but I tried to make the rounds to the other tables.
(And thank you Jackie Houchin, for supplying some of these pictures!)