Where the Books Are (and Where They’ll Go)
There are new developments regarding the Estate of Maurice Sendak, the famous American author and illustrator who passed away in 2012 and is best known for authoring Where the Wild Things Are. As reported by the New York Times, Mr. Sendak’s Estate was mostly successful in an ongoing legal dispute with the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia.
First, a bit of background: prior to his death, the Rosenbach Museum housed a large archive of Mr. Sendak’s work, including many original illustrations and portions of his book collection. However, these items were not gifted to the Rosenbach Museum. Instead, under his Will, Mr. Sendak left his collection to the foundation created in his name prior to his death, and directed the creation of “a museum or similar facility” in his hometown of Ridgefield, Connecticut. However, Mr. Sendak did leave his “rare edition books” to the museum under his Will.
In 2014, the executors of Mr. Sendak’s Estate withdrew Mr. Sendak’s collection at the Rosenbach Museum. The museum subsequently commenced a legal proceeding in Connecticut probate court, arguing that the Estate had kept two books by William Blake and a selection of rare books by Beatrix Potter. According to the museum, these books fell into the category of “rare edition books” gifted to the museum under Mr. Sendak’s Will.
According to the article in the New York Times, the Connecticut court held that the William Blake books did not fit the definition of “rare edition books,” but that the Beatrix Potter books belonged to the museum. In the result, the Estate and Mr. Sendak’s foundation were awarded 252 of the 340 items that were in dispute between the parties.
I recently blogged about the famous Mexican architect Luis Barragan, and the broader public debates that often emerge about how best to preserve an artist’s legacy after his or her death. A similar debate has served as the backdrop to the legal wrangling between the museum and the Estate.
In a 2014 article, the New York Times profiled Mr. Sendak’s long-time housekeeper and caretaker Lynn Caponera, who was now acting one of his executors and the president of his foundation. The article highlighted some of the questions and criticisms that had been directed at the executors’ decision to withdraw Mr. Sendak’s collection from the museum, with some questioning the appropriateness of Mr. Sendak’s property in Ridgefield as a site for a museum and the skill and ability of Ms. Caponera to manage and administer Mr. Sendak’s foundation.
Thank you for reading and have a great weekend,
Umair Abdul Qadir