In the Ringling Museum Library’s accession book, twenty eight books were recorded in 1949 as being a gift from the Merci Train. Over the years, books from the collection have been withdrawn, discarded, or gone missing. What remains are seventeen books that make up the Merci Collection. The books have a wide range of subjects from Paris to mushrooms, and from the military to images of the Virgin Mary. Many are inscribed by the people who donated them and include book plates that label the books as being from the Merci Train.
Art, Architecture, and Literature
La Foire de Sorochinietz (1945) by Nicolas Gogol
La Foire de Sorochinietz was originally written in Russian about a fair that comes to a small, peasant town in Russia. The Ringling Museum Library’s copy is translated into French by Jarl-Priel and illustrated with original etchings by Vera Morosoff. Only 275 copies of this book were made. Inside is an inscription from the illustrator; it reads “En souvenir des années 1944-1945 A avec toute ma gratitude Véra le 16 XII 1948,” or in English, “In remembrance of the years 1944-1945 with all of my thanks Véra 16th of December 1948.”
In an interesting turn of events, Vera Morosoff ended up living not far from the Ringling Museum Library. In 1917, Vera and her husband, also an artist, left their homeland of Russia for Italy. They soon left Italy for Paris and lived there during WWII. In 1951, the couple moved to New York City by way of Chicago, but after 20 years in Manhattan, Vera and her husband moved to St. Petersburg, FL. A book that Vera had signed and donated to the Merci Train in 1949, not knowing where it would end up, found its way to Sarasota, only a short distance from the place she would come to over twenty years later.
Marie Mère de Dieu (1947) by Henri Ghéon
This book compiles images of the Virgin Mary. The images are organized into four categories: Ave Maria, Mater Amabilis, Mater Dolorosa, and Regina Coeli. The paintings are from collections all across Europe and include artists such as Michelangelo, Jan Van Eyck, and Giotto. Most images are in black and white, but a few have been reproduced in color.
Eglises Parisiennes: Actuelles et Disparues (1947) by Yvan Christ
Eglises Parisiennes is about the churches of Paris and is inscribed in English by the person who donated the book. The book has many images, architectural drawings, sketches, and other images of and about the churches.
La Publicité Française (1947) edited by La Fédération Française de la Publicité
La Publicité Française is a book of ads and illustrations by various artists. There are hundreds of images; Most are in black and white, but many are in color. The products advertised range from perfume and makeup to Perrier and tomato juice. For every image the artist is cited and for others a short description about where the ad appeared is included.
Les Jardins de Versailles (1924) by Pierre Nolhac
Les Jardins de Versailles (The Gardens of Versailles) chronicles the history of Versailles’ gardens from the initial plans to final installments of fountains and sculptures. The author, Pierre Nolhac, takes an art historical approach to writing about the gardens. He discusses various artists and architects and their artistic additions to the gardens. There are many black and white images of statues, fountains, and of course the gardens themselves.
Keepsake (1944) by Pierre Lestringuez
This book of poems from Pierre Lestringuez is illustrated by Roebrt Naly. There are 25 lithographs, the majority of which are in color. Also, the book contains a preface written by the French poet, Leon Paul Fargue. 195 copies of the book were made of the first edition, but they were broken up into three categories and printed on different types of paper. The first fifty were printed on vellum from Auvergne, a province in the center of France, the next forty-five were printed on vellum from Rives, and the last one hundred copies were printed on vellum from Papeteries de Lana, a paper making company in Strasbourg, France. The copy at the Ringling Museum Library is number 117, which means it is printed on the vellum from Papeteries de Lana. There are 24 poems and every one is illustrated.
Exposition de l’Histoire de l’Ordre Souverain de Malte au Bénéfice du Pavillon des Lépreux des Oeuvres Hopitalières Françaises de L’Ordre de Malte (1929) by Comte Michel de Pierredon
L’Ordre Souverain de Malte is a medical association with a very long history. It began around 1048 at the Hospital of St. Jean in Jerusalem with individuals who cared for the sick and poor. Eventually the group became a charitable organization and throughout its nearly thousand year history L’Ordre Souverain de Malte built hospitals, universities, and libraries in Rhodes, Malta, and France. It also helped treat over 800,000 wounded individuals during World War I. In 1927 the Ordre de Malte France (the French extension of the association) was created. In 1928, the organization began to fund the building of a new section of the St Louis Hospital in Paris. The section would be used to help treat people suffering from leprosy who had come from French colonies. This book, “L’Exposition de l’Histoire de l’Ordre Souverain de Malte,” is a catalog of an exhibition held at the National Library of France. The exhibition was developed to raise money for the hospital’s leprosy wing. Inside, the book describes how donators would have their name inscribed at the head of a bed in the hospital. The exhibition included paintings, prints, and objects from the Louvre, the National Library of France, the Versailles Museum and others.
Corot (1942) by Germain Bazin
This book has one of the book plates with the logo of the Merci Train. The inscription inside “Vous qui allez vivre, soyez dignes de nous qui allons mourir.. (un Francais de dix-sept ans)” roughly translates to “You who are living, be worthy of us who are going to die.. (a Frenchman of 17 years),” but the message that is lost in translation means “Honor the dead by living.” The book discusses the French artist, Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. Corot mostly painted landscapes, but also painted figures and worked with engravings. Many examples of Corot’s work are included with several reproduced in color.