Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Collection Documenting the Life and Works of Dare Wright, Author and Photographer

NEW YORK, February 28, 2007 Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library recently acquired a major collection documenting the life and work of Dare Wright, the noted children’s book author and photographer. The collection was donated by Jean Nathan, Columbia alumna (J’83) and author of The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright, a biography of the late author.


The collection includes articles about Nathan's book, as well as extensive notes from her research. Nathan said, "Researching the book used all the skills I have accrued in my twenty years as a journalist, and that all started at Columbia. Those lessons stay with you all your life." The gift includes all of her research for the book, drafts of the book, press related to the book, digital images on CD-ROM of hundreds of photographs by Dare Wright, as well as an original painting of Dare Wright by her mother, Edith Stevenson Wright.

Dare Wright was born in Canada and raised in the United States. She started her career as a photographer's fashion model, then went around to the other side of the camera and became a highly successful freelance photographer. Her photographs appeared in such magazines as Town and Country, Good Housekeeping, Vogue, and Harper's Bazaar. She created several books about her childhood doll, Edith, and her teddy bear friends, including the classic favorites The Lonely Doll and Edith and Mr. Bear. The publication of The Lonely Doll featuring her black and white still-life photographs was a smash success and made the New York Times Best Sellers List. She wrote eighteen other children's books using photography as illustration, and many featuring the popular Edith.

Nathan's biography states, "The sole autobiographical record Dare Wright left behind is concealed in her photographs and in the books she wrote and illustrated for children." Michael Ryan, Rare Book & Manuscripts Library Director, said, "We are grateful to Jean Nathan not only for this important gift but for rescuing for posterity the story of Dare Wright and her eccentric life and career."

Nathan graduated from Williams College and the Columbia School of Journalism. She has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Travel & Leisure, Vogue, and other publications, and is currently working on a new book. Her book on Dare Wright is being adapted for a film produced by Killer Films and directed by Julian Schnabel.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library owns over 500,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children's literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive. For additional information about the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, please call 212-854-5153