Housed in Skidmore’s Special Collections, the Fox Collection features approximately 400 books by authors and illustrators including Aubrey Beardsley, William Blake, Robert Browning, Lewis Carroll, George Cruikshank, Robert Cruikshank, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, the Grimm Brothers, Washington Irving, Sir Walter Scott, William Thackeray, and Oscar Wilde.
Nineteenth-century illustrations form a significant portion of the Norman Fox Collection, which spans the 15th to 20th centuries and includes a significant number of rare books. In 2005, the Norman M. Fox family of Saratoga Springs officially donated the valuable collection to Skidmore, where it had been housed since 1967.
Norman Fox proposed the lecture series in 1990 when he inherited the collection from his longtime friend Hannah M. Adler. The Fox family (Norman; son Harvey; daughter-in-law Cassie, a 1980 Skidmore graduate; and daughter Cindy Fox Aisen) has actively supported several events in connection with the Fox-Adler lecture series. These have included the annual lecture itself, which emphasizes 18th-and 19tht-century literature or popular culture, along with the publication of several catalogs highlighting the collection, and special exhibits of works from the collection.
Originally acquired by the late Hannah and F. Charles Adler, longtime residents of Saratoga Springs, the collection includes Saint Augustine’s Opuscula (1489), and a signed, limited edition of Virginia Woolf’s Beau Brummel. Works by 17th-century authors Sir Walter Raleigh, Ben Jonson, and John Dryden, and by 18th-century authors, Henry Fielding, Thomas Gray, and Adam Smith also highlight the collection.
A smaller “collection within the collection” consists of numerous works by the artist George Cruikshank, whose drawing and caricatures vividly illustrate political and cultural developments of the Victorian era appreciated by a growing reading public.
Skidmore English Professor Catherine Golden, an expert on the Victorian illustrated book, has been instrumental in organizing the Fox Collection and is one of several faculty members who use it regularly for research as well as a teaching tool. Says Golden, “The collection contains both high literature and popular culture of the time, including the serial Bentley’s Miscellany, which published installments of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. It’s wonderful to be able to show students how people of the time read this story in its original format.” Golden’s students have also used the Fox Collection as the foundation for exhibitions in Skidmore’s Scribner Library and Tang Teaching Museum.
According to Golden, “The Fox Collection has given students a chance to work with primary sources. Involvement in that kind of resource in our Internet age is fading.” Students using the collection also gain knowledge about differences in class and gender. “Leather-bound versus cloth-bound covers and the illustrations in these books speak to issues of class and gender in a powerful way. The image becomes the centerpiece of conversations that go beyond literature. It brings the century to life and gets the students excited.”
Added Golden, “This collection has instilled in many an appreciation for rare books – the kind of appreciation that Hannah Adler had” (The Hannah M. Adler Collection, 5) …”Those who study the Adler Collection have a unique opportunity to see rare examples of Victorian art and literature in their original form as people in the Victorian era viewed them” (120).
A very thorough catalog of the collection, by Professor Catherine Golden, is also available in the circulating collection (call number Z881 .S375 1993) and in Special Collections.