We had a fabulous time at the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens and Museum today, launching my latest historical, ROSES IN THE TEMPEST.
Hubby and I got there early enough to wander the library and art gallery. Now, I used to come here a lot when I was a kid. Museums were free in those days, offering a young family of five a chance to give their kids a bit of culture. Where would I be today if we had not spent so much time at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the La Brea Tar Pits, Griffith Park Observatory, Exposition Park, and the Huntington Library? (Rich endowers, if you want to make a difference, don't donate money to have a building named after you. Sponsor a year or more so that admission can be free to families so kids can grow up looking at art, at gardens, at precious books!)
Inside the Library. Just as I remember it as a kid. The Library boasts a Gutenberg Bible, a Shakespeare Folio and a bad quarto, the Ellesmere Chaucer, an Audubon Book, and so many other firsts.
Pertinent to my talk, Henry Huntington, the rascal, got a hold of a copy of Henry VIII's book defending the seven sacraments to counter Martin Luther's shouts of reformation. For this sterling book, King Henry was named "Defender of the Faith" by Pope Leo X.
And right next to a Tyndale New Testament--written in English so that ordinary Englishmen would know exactly what the bible said (remember, at this time it was only to be in Latin), Thomas More, King Henry's friend and eventual Chancellor of England, (and also eventual prisoner of the state and eventual executed prisoner because he would not agree to the king's divorce) wrote his argument against the Tyndale bible.
My personal favorite, even when I was a kid. The Ellesmere Chaucer, with its fantastic illumination and illustrations of all the pilgrims, including one Geoffrey Chaucer. It was penned and illustrated by Chaucer's own scribe, Adam Pinkhurst, so we know the portrait of Chaucer was accurate.
There I am, itching to take it home.
And here, something Crispin might have owned. Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics.
And yet another piece owned by Ellesmere, a beautiful illuminated Psalter.
And something a bit sad. Jack London was afraid of fires in his Sonoma house in northern California, so he had his manuscript the Sea Wolf placed in the fireproof vault in a bank in San Francisco. But then they had a little earthquake that leveled the town and had a huge fire. That blackened mass in that box is all that is left of the manuscript. And, insult to injury, his house in Sonoma burned down some years later, too.
About two years ago I offered a day at the museum where I gathered readers and fans to go on a tour with me. I offered demos, gave a little lecture, and ended the day at the tea room. We had a swell time, but on that day, I only had a chance to go into the library's special collection (the library itself was closed for renovation, so what we wanted to see was temporarily housed in a different building.) But today we made sure we were there in time to see the library's standard collection, the art gallery, and some of the gardens. I didn't realize until I thought about it, that I hadn't been in the art gallery for almost 25 years. It was old home week for me, saying hello to Lady Hamilton, Sarah Siddens, Two Boys With Bladder, and many other Gainsborough paintings I had gotten to know so well over the years of my childhood. (Want to know what kind of a geek I was? My sister and I had a lot of postcards of those portraits on the walls of our bedroom.) Huntington was able to obtain a lot of those portraits--more so than landscapes in the latter half of the 1800s--because Europe was dumping them to rich Americans. Many of the noble families who owned these portraits were short of cash and they were willing to give them up. At one time, Huntington's was the largest private collection in America and open to the public! Take that, Koch brothers!
Beautiful stained glass in the art gallery (that was actually the Huntingtons' home).
Pinky and Blue Boy.
Two Boys with Bladder. Pig bladder, that is. See why this captured my imagination as a kid?
Lady Hamilton. No wonder Lord Nelson was smitten.
One of the lovely views from the house (no, not me) is the sculpture garden that ends at a large fountain filled with fish.
We wandered through the extensive rose garden and I got all Barbara Streisand in On a Clear Day (even though that was filmed at Exposition Park in Los Angeles).
And then we went to the Japanese Garden and then the Chinese Garden. It was a nice, cool overcast day. A week ago the weather people were telling us it was going to be 78 degrees, but a few days ago that forecast had dropped to 65 degrees. It was lovely.
Jeri examines the Japanese house.
Probably says above the door in Chinese, "Tourists, stop messing around in the stonework!"
And then when it was time to fetch the books and supplies from the car to bring them to the tea room, it started to sprinkle. I didn't worry. It's California in April. Just a sprinkle. Until it started to rain. And we had a loooong walk from the parking lot to the tea room. I was absolutely soaked by the time we got there!
But no worries. We set up, I welcomed everyone who had already delved into their tea, and hubby and I delved into our own, with plenty of sandwiches, salads, fruit, desserts, scones, clotted cream...you know the drill.
After we were sated, I gave a little talk about the immediate history taking place during the book, I did a reading, and then we signed. I sold out of the few copies of THOUGH HEAVEN FALL I brought and sold a few CUP OF BLOODs, too.
All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon. There was room for more of you, but I was glad--as we watched it rain outside in their lovely English garden and we were warm inside with our tea and dainties--that so many came! Hope you enjoy the book!