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Coming Soon, Wm. Cather M.D. and "The Mental Portrait Album"

Coming Soon, Wm. Cather M.D. and "The Mental Portrait Album"

Monday, November 2, 2009

In 1888, the fourteen-year-old Willa Cather made a memorable entry in a friendship album owned by her schoolmate Serena White. Cather signed herself "Wm. Cather M.D." Among her observations, our young Dr. Cather's "idea of perfect happiness" was "Amputating Limbs."

Cather's two-page entry in the album appeared in Mildred R. Bennett's The World of Willa Cather, originally published in 1951. Soon, and for the first time, the full album will be reproduced here for the enjoyment of readers and scholars and anyone interested in the late 19th century world of Cather's youth.

This fascinating artifact has been preserved by the family of Florence White Grosvenor, the younger sister of the album's original owner. Among Grosvenor's descendants are Jane Dressler, a music professor at Kent State University, and her daughter Virginia Dressler, Digital Library Programs Librarian at Case Western University. Together they made available a digital reproduction of the album, the title page of which bears this name and legend:

The Mental Portrait Album
For Recording the Autographic Confessions of Friends and Acquaintances
Regarding their Opinions, Tastes, Fancies, Etc.

The Willa Cather Foundation will soon be reproducing the book here in its entirety, accompanied by biographical information on many of the album's signers as well as contextualizing material on their "Opinions, Tastes, Fancies, Etc."

Please stop back soon for a series of remarkable "Mental Portraits."