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KU Libraries digitize Rossetti Family Collection

Friday, February 12, 2016

The University of Kansas Libraries have launched the Rossetti Family Collection, a new digital collection that features correspondence from the highly influential Rossetti family. The collection houses close to 300 individual letters and materials with 782 individual images, accessible for public browsing online. 

A British family of Italian descent, the Rossettis influenced literature and the arts during the second half of the nineteenth century. The collection gives insight into the family’s aesthetic endeavors, with principal correspondents including painter, poet and founder of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in art, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, poet Christina Rossetti and critic and biographer William Michael Rossetti.

As a resource, the digital collection provides researchers with access to letters by the Rossettis (and their correspondents) in their own handwriting, offers a deeper glimpse into aesthetic and business practices of nineteenth-century writers and artists and makes primary literary sources available.

“The collection offers fascinating insight into the working lives and friendships of the Rossetti family, and the letters are often a good read to boot,” said Elspeth Healey, special collections librarian at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at KU. “Who, for example, isn’t tempted by a letter that begins ‘I am laying myself out to be disagreeable’—as does one from poet Christina Rossetti to the artist Frederic Shields— or a letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to fellow writer Algernon Charles Swinburne on the subject of reputation and literary gossip?”

The digital collection complements additional Rossetti works on KU’s campus. “One of the most famous works in KU’s Spencer Museum of Art is D. G. Rossetti’s La Pia de' Tolomei (1868–1880), and since KU Libraries hold Rossetti family correspondence, we wanted to use the online environment to share these other Rossetti materials with scholars and the public,” Healey said. 

Digitizing the Rossetti correspondence highlights the innovative methods used by KU Libraries to make collections accessible.

“It’s wonderful to provide wider access to these materials,” said Scott Hanrath, assistant dean of Information Technology and Discovery Services. “It’s a success not just because we digitized the letters and made available online, but because we made them more discoverable. In addition to digital images of the letters themselves, an online finding aid describing the collection is available. The records for the individual letters are also searchable directly from the search box on the Libraries’ homepage.”

Visit the Rossetti Family Collection page to view the full collection. 

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