|[The following text is transcribed from a booklet
published by the Library Committee in 1895 soon after the dedication of
When one looks at this Memorial of three good men, it is not without a variety of feelings and ideas. Nothing was needed, indeed, to perpetuate the name of Robert Morrisson, the founder of the Library, whose portrait hangs in the Reading Room. That the names of his son and grandson should have been included in the commemorative tablet, is most natural and just. It was due to the generosity of Miss Bertha Morrisson and Mr. James W. Morrisson, great-grandchildren of the founder, that the Library is indebted for this beautiful work of art.
The high artistic merit of the Memorial, showing as it does the American possibilities of an art which has been thought well-nigh lost, and the poetic treatment of such a suggestive event as the discovery of printing from movable types: these are surely ideas that singly or together command our reverent attention.
The large central window shows Gutenberg in the act of drawing a printed sheet from the press, thereby showing to his companions, Fust and Schoeffer, on the left, the practicability of his invention.
The smaller windows above include representative facts in the history of literature and its "Art Preservative." On the left, the literatures of France, Spain, Italy and Germany are suggested by the names, dates and arms of the four great poets: Moliere, Lope de Vega, Dante, and Goethe. The quotation on the ribbon-scroll is from Hazlitt.
Next, in the center, are the book-marks, or printers' devices, of William Caxton, the first English printer; of the Italian printer, Aldus Manutius, whose edition of the classics is so famous; of the French printer, Simon Vostre, and of the Flemish publishers, Plantin, with their motto, the fixed and moving points of the compasses denoting patience and labor.
On the right are the names and arms, together with the dates, of four great English masters of literature: Chaucer, Bacon, Shakespeare and Milton. The motto reads: "Study, as if you were to live forever; live, as if you were to die to-morrow."
A few words as to the nature of the glass in the large window, may be added. Colored glass has, until recent years, been of two kinds. One was tinted in a molten state by the stain or chemical, in which case all light rays are absorbed except that corresponding to the color of the glass. In painted glass, on the other hand, different colors and shading were applied with a brush, and then burnt in. In both kinds, shadows were often made by introducing different pieces of glass, of a different color, or a darker shade of the same color. The glass was as nearly as possible of a uniform thickness.
In the window before us we see a result of discoveries made by Mr. Louis C. Tiffany, of New York, a member of the celebrated firm of that name. The glass, which he calls "Fabrile [sic] Glass," is here used throughout the design of the large window, except in the face, neck, arms and hands of the figures. Here, where delicacy of anatomical treatment is required, the glass is painted. The artistic perfection of this work may be especially noted in the right arm and hand of Gutenberg.
The rest of the window is of Fabrile [sic] Glass. Across the room, it seems as if the shadows, as in the coat of the figure to the right, must have been shaded in with a brush. Such is not the case, and a closer inspection will reveal the fact that all such effects are cleverly made by actual folds in the glass. Whether they have been cast in moulds, or made by manipulation when the glass was still hot, remains a secret with the inventor.
Thus light and shade, with the exceptions noticed above, are produced by differing thicknesses of the glass. The difficulty of obtaining proper clare-obsure by this means is obvious. The window will, upon careful study, yield other secrets of skill, not only to the artist but to the lover of American ingenuity. The color-scheme should not be overlooked, as, by its very harmony, is apt to be the case. Pure color is used sparingly and with a charming result. The bit of ribbon, for example, on the portfolio beneath the press, just saves this modest accessory from neglect.
So long as culture means knowing and feeling the best, just so long must this Memorial be its faithful ally, and the donors be held in grateful esteem.
W. P. R.
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