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Creation of new James Branch Cabell information hub underway

June 30, 2020
Frank Pape's end page illustration for Jurgen by James Branch Cabell.
Endpapers by illustrator Frank C. Papé

In April 2019, Dean of Libraries John Ulmschneider convened The Silver Stallion Transition Task Force with a charge to develop recommendations for the possibility of migrating The Silver Stallion: James Branch Cabell website (jamesbranchcabell.org), to VCU Libraries. The Task Force delivered its recommendations, and in November, Ulmschneider shared a summary with the James Branch Cabell Associates. Thanks to the generous support of the Associates, this multi-phase project is in the process of design by VCU Libraries’ Digital Engagement team.

VCU Libraries will leverage the existing bibliographic scholarship and other special content on the Silver Stallion site, along with materials from VCU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives, to create a new hub for James Branch Cabell studies. VCU Libraries will expand the Silver Stallion site with photographs, journals and correspondence from library collections, along with original writing and research.

The completed Cabell site is being designed to stimulate new interest and scholarship, while presenting the learned writer’s works, biography, philosophical concerns and legacy to specialists and the general reading public. Alongside its serious academic purpose, the project will convey a sense of Cabell’s playful wit to entice a broader reading public to explore and enjoy this imaginative writer. 

To date, many people have contributed their expertise to the project. Along with John Ulmschneider, Task Force and content contributors include Bill Lloyd and John Thorne, editors and owners of Silver Stallion; Trevor Cox and Brokie Lamb from the Cabell Associates; Alice Campbell, project manager, Ray Bonis, John Glover and Erin White from the staff of VCU Libraries.

Launch of the new James Branch Cabell website is planned for Spring 2021.

Richmonder James Branch Cabell (1879-1958) was a man of letters who wrote 52 volumes of fiction and non-fiction in his lifetime. 

During the 1920s, Cabell enjoyed national literary success and the high regard of his peers including writers as diverse as H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, and Carl Van Vechten. Cabell pointed out the hypocrisy of the South through satire. His medieval romanticism and fantasy, which combined many classic mythologies in a fantasy world Cabell named Poictesme (pwa-tem), were in fact thinly disguised commentaries on the manners of those times. Considered a forerunner of American fantasy fiction, his work is applauded today by writers and artists including Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess.

Cabell’s wide network of literary friends and associates, led him to collect nearly 3,000 volumes for his personal library. After his death, that library would come to VCU  to seed what eventually became James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives. Soon after VCU was formed in 1968, when the Medical College of Virginia merged with Richmond Professional Institute, the university began plans for a new library for the Monroe Park Campus. Cabell's widow, Margaret Freeman Cabell, and the Associates of the James Branch Cabell Library, contributed time, energy, and financial resources to create the core of the new library. In 1970, the James Branch Cabell Library, named for one of Richmond's most respected writers, opened its doors. 

More about James Branch Cabell https://gallery.library.vcu.edu/exhibits/show/jamesbranchcabell

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