Rare book exhibit is the cat’s meow

October 1, 2013 2:40 PM

Erika Herran

A new exhibit showcasing rare books about cats opens Wednesday (Oct. 2) at the second-floor gallery of Jones Hall on the Tulane University uptown campus and runs until Halloween.

Tom: A Novel

Tom: A Novel by Don Prince and illustrated by Howard Baer was published in 1940. The book is in an exhibit of 21 rare cat materials that span from the 16th century to the 1960s.

It’s a little known fact that for years the Tulane Special Collections’ Rare Books unit has been home to a phenomenal assortment of feline-focused books: The Charlee LaChatte Mailhes Memorial Collection.

“It may seem unusual to have such objects in university collections,” says Joshua Lupkin, chief bibliographer for the humanities at the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, who curated the exhibit. “But there has long been a deep human interest in cats. These materials prompt us to think about the iconography of the cat and why people are compelled to collect ‘cute’ objects.”

For the late Mona Mailhes, a New Orleans native and 1949 Newcomb College alumna, establishing the special collection of rare cat books was a way to honor the memory of her beloved cat, Charlee.

The collection was endowed through planned gifts the teacher and book lover left to the library upon her death in 2003.

The exhibit highlights 21 rare cat materials that span from the 16th century to the 1960s. The curated works range from children’s books to jazz scores, and include items from the Hogan Jazz Archive and the Louisiana Research Collection at Tulane.

“We are trying to raise awareness of rare books in a way that is fun and accessible for the Tulane community,” says Lupkin. “Honestly, I’m more of a dog lover myself.”

Dog lovers need not fear — Mailhes also established The Little Awful Annie Mailhes Memorial Collection in honor of her pooch. An exhibit featuring rare books about dogs is already in the works.

More information can be found on the Howard-Tilton Library blog.

Erika Herran is a writer in the Office of Development Communications.

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