Frances Manola Collection
- Majority of material found in 1946-2014
Scope and Content Note
This collection contains examples of the artistic and professional output, as well as the papers, of Frances Manola, an artist who worked as a calligrapher and bookbinder in New York and New Jersey from the early 1960s to 2009. She studied with well-known names in the fields of calligraphy, illumination and book-binding, including Paul Standard, Donald Jackson, Wendy Gould (Selby), David Graham and Laura Young. Included in the collection are examples of calligraphy and illumination, shadow boxes, early artwork, personal and professional papers, and works from her collection of contemporary calligraphy and historical manuscripts.
9 3/8 linear feet (2 height-extended record cartons, 4 manuscript boxes, 3 half manuscript boxes, one card file box and two newspaper storage boxes)
Language of Materials
This collection contains examples of the artistic and professional output, as well as the papers, of Frances Manola, an artist who worked as a calligrapher and bookbinder in New York and New Jersey from the early 1960s to 2009.
Frances Manola was a New Jersey calligrapher, book binder, teacher and sculptural artist. She was a significant contributor to the book arts movement of the mid-twentieth to which the field of artists’ books and indeed American rare book librarianship owes a significant debt. Among her other contributions, she was co-founder of the Society of Scribes, the oldest American organization promoting the study, teaching and practice of calligraphy and illumination. With a piece in the Guild of Bookworkers’ 100th Anniversary Exhibition in 2006, Frances, or as she was also known, Fran was an esteemed public face of American calligraphy. She is remembered as an influential and inspiring teacher of calligraphy. And, of equal importance, as a single woman who turned to calligraphy for her livelihood in her fifties, began making sculptural artworks in the form of shadowboxes in her seventies and opened a bindery business when she was nearly eighty, Fran merits recognition as a courageous and independent woman who flouted restrictive gender and age conventions and thereby set an example for successive generations. Last but certainly not least, Fran was an artist who used calligraphy as a medium of self-expression.
Frances Manola was born on August 28, 1916. As a young girl growing up in East Orange, NJ, she was attracted to books, art and writing. Her sister, Jean Stasi, remembers that Fran decorated her bedroom walls with Bible verses. Jean also recalls that Fran used a “large cake of Ivory soap to carve a figure of Mozart, playing his violin. In her twenties, during the Great Depression when one took the job one could get rather than seeking their dream job, Fran trained in engineering and stenography. In her late twenties, in the midst of World War 2, Fran joined the WAVES, in which she served for three years. In 1946, after her honorable discharge as yeoman first class, Fran was finally able to fulfill her dream of going to art school. She took a three-year course at the Academy of Arts, Newark, NJ. (The Academy does not survive), continuing to support herself as a secretary. In 1948, she studied art at the Workshop School of Advertising and Editorial Art in NYC, which included a calligraphy course with Paul Standard, calligrapher and author. Nancy Leavitt writes that “with the help of Edward Johnston’s book, Writing, Illuminating & Lettering, Fran began to develop her own calligraphic hand.” In 1950, just as she was about to settle for one of four engineering jobs that had been offered to her, a job opened up in the Whitney Museum, as Lloyd Goodrich’s secretary.
The Whitney Museum originated in 1931 with a gift from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (January 9, 1875 – April 18, 1942), an American sculptor, art patron and collector. Whitney at first offered her collection of over 700 works of American art to the Met, but, the Met refused it. In view of the preference for European Modernism at the newly opened Museum of Modern Art, Whitney decided to found her own museum. In 1935 the Whitney Museum of American Art appointed Lloyd Goodrich to be its Research Curator. Goodrich was an art historian known for his work on Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Edward Hopper. Growing up in Nutley, New Jersey, Goodrich had also been a childhood friend of the painter, Reginald Marsh. In 1948, the museum made Goodrich Associate Director, shortly before he hired Fran to be his secretary, and then in 1958, Director. As secretary, Fran worked closely with Goodrich on exhibitions of artwork by Eakins and Homer, and earned extra income, by providing the Museum with signs and lettering.
Fran moved into midtown Manhattan soon after joining the Whitney. During the fifties, she studied printing at the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), joined the Guild of Book Workers and began a six year course of bookbinding with Laura Young. Obviously, while she remained interested in other aspects of art, such as paper sculpture, and silk screening, Fran’s dominant interest was in aspects of book-making.
After leaving the Whitney in May, 1962, Fran worked for about a year as Executive Secretary for Rutgers Church. Once again confronted by the need for employment, Fran turned back to the calligraphic exercises she had learned from Paul Standard, and began teaching herself how to be a professional calligrapher and how to teach calligraphy. By the late nineteen sixties, Fran had become adept at calligraphy as well as bookbinding, two skill-sets with very little overlap. Fran explained that she developed her skills within a regimen keyed to the weather. Summers were too hot to letter, so she “bound in the summer and lettered in the winter.”
In 1973, Fran traveled to England to study gilding with Wendy Gould (Selby) and David Graham. When Donald Jackson (official scribe and calligrapher to the Crown Office of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) came to the US to teach, in 1974, Fran took his first workshop in New York. Jackson deserves credit for teaching Fran to think more creatively about calligraphy. Also under Jackson's encouragement, Fran and the other scribes in the workshop formed the Society of Scribes, a group that patterned themselves after the English Society of Scribes and Illuminators, founded in the United Kingdom in 1921 by former students of Edward Johnston.
In 1984 Fran left New York City to live with her mother in New Providence, New Jersey, but continued to direct her efforts toward creativity and calligraphy. She moved into heretofore undiscovered calligraphic territory in 1989 when she began combine letters into three-dimensional artworks reminiscent of Joseph Cornell, which she would continue to produce for the next ten years. During this period, in 1992 Fran made headlines in the Star Ledger when at age 78 she opened up The Attic Bindery in New Providence.
Moving to New Providence meant stepping away from society, a fact that she regretted. But Fran remained connected during the nineties through the articles she published from 1990–1997, as the calligraphy correspondent for the Guild of Bookworkers (GBW) Newsletter. One can find samples of her lively and perceptive articles Online at the GBW website. Fran was made an honorary member of the Guild in 1997 and in 1998, Fran was a featured artist at the New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, along with Denise Mullen, Lore Lindenfeld and Susan Happersett. Fran remained a much-loved figure in calligraphy circles into the twenty-first century. In the Guild of Bookworkers 100th anniversary exhibition, she was represented by an illuminated manuscript rendering in Irish Half Uncial script of William Wordsworth’s “Our Birth is But a Sleep.” In 2009 Fran suffered a stroke that sharply curtailed her activities but did not extinguish her spirit.
Fran died on March 10, 2013. In a subsequent letter to Fran’s sister, Jean Stasi, Donald Jackson—one of Fran’s three great calligraphic influences, along with Paul Standard and Edward Johnston—reflected on their friendship, on Fran’s readiness to laugh and how much he enjoyed “stories of her outrageously precocious cats who thought quill pens were brought especially from England for them to play with!” He concluded the letter with what we will characterize as a calligraphic line: “She was a doer and a maker and never stopped learning and seeking to learn about her craft.”
(Biographical note adapted from an oral presentation by Michael Joseph given at opening of Fran Manola: A Scribe's Life, John Cotton Dana Library, Rutgers-Newark, February 27-May 30, 2014.)
Because of the varied formats and sizes of the material, items are housed according to format and size, rather than strictly in series-order folders. The collection, as listed here, is organized into eleven series and, within each series, is listed first by box number, then alphabetically by folder title or name of work. This SUMMARY PHYSICAL ARRANGEMENT includes a box list, with a summary of the contents of each box. Oversized boxes may be kept separately from the collection. Measurements are in inches: height x width x depth.
SUMMARY PHYSICAL ARRANGEMENT
The list below indicates the box numbers, a description of the physical box, the series that are found in each box and where to locate items in that series that are filed elsewhere. The first four boxes are oversized and may be kept separately from the manuscript boxes that hold the remainder of the collection.
Box 1 – Oversized flat box (20 x 24 x 3). Box contents organized by size, then by series and alphabetically within the series. The larger works are at the top of the box and the smaller pieces are in three compartments below. Tabs identify the works in each grouping. In this box are:
- Series: Calligraphic Art and Illumination. Box contains all of the series, with the exception of Gottingen Model Book Interpreted and Expanded, Miro’s Images, and “What is Life Like.” These three are in manuscript box folders in Box 5. The folders for the Gottingen Model Book Interpreted and Expanded and Miro’s Images contain photocopies of the books, as the originals are cataloged in the library collection.
- Series: Frances Manola Collection of Calligraphic Art – Modern Calligraphy. Box contains the entire series.
- Series: Frances Manola Collection of Calligraphic Art – Historical Manuscripts. Box contains an Indenture document and a leaf of the Qur’an. The others in this series are represented by photocopies in manuscript box folders in Box 8, as the originals are cataloged in the library manuscript collection and in the Digital Scriptorium.
Box 2 – Oversized flat box (20 x 24 x 3). Organized by series and alphabetically within the series.
- Series: General Calligraphy. Box contains “Commercial Calligraphy, Folders 12-18”. The remainder of the series is housed in manuscript boxes (Boxes 5-6).
- Series: Non-Calligraphic Artwork, Early Work and School Pieces. Box contains the entire series, with the exception of 2 folders of material from a “Basic Design Course” and one folder each for “Paper Cuts,” “Paper Engineering” and “Small Sketches & Watercolors.” These 5 folders are housed in a manuscript box (Box 8).
- Series: Teaching. Box contains only one folder from this series, “Calligraphy, Ames Lettering Guide.” The remainder of the series is housed in a manuscript box (Box 9).
- Series: Home Decorations. Box contains the folder for “Large Home Decorations.” The folder for small works is housed in a manuscript box (Box 12, Folder 10).
Box 3 – Oversized tall box (height-extended record carton). Organized alphabetically by title.
- Series: Non-Calligraphic Work – Shadow Boxes. Box contains the first four in the series, with the remainder housed in Box 4.
Box 4 – Oversized tall box (height-extended record carton). Organized alphabetically by title.
- Series: Non-Calligraphic Work – Shadow Boxes. Box contains the last three in the series, with the remainder housed in Box 3.
Box 5 – Manuscript box (10 ½ x 15 ¾ x 5). Organized by series, then alphabetically by folder name.
- Series: Rutgers Exhibition Catalog. Box contains the one folder in this series.
- Series: Calligraphic Art and Illumination. Box contains Gottingen Model Book Interpreted and Expanded (photocopy), Miro’s Images (photocopy), and “What is Life Like.”
- Series: General Calligraphy. Box contains series from beginning through the folder “Practice Sheets, Folder 1.”
Box 6 – Half manuscript box (10 ½ x 15 ¾ x 2 ½). Organized by series, then alphabetically by folder name.
- Series: General Calligraphy. Box contains series from folder “Practice Sheets, Folder 2” through the series end.
Box 7 – Manuscript box (10 ½ x 15 ¾ x 5). Organized by series, then alphabetically by folder name.
- Series: Non-Calligraphic Work. Box contains the entire series.
Box 8 – Half manuscript box (10 ½ x 15 ¾ x 2 ½). Organized by series, then alphabetically by folder name.
- Series: Non-Calligraphic Work – Artwork, Early Art and Student Pieces. Box contains two folders of small work for a Basic Design Course, two folders of paper-cutting and sculptures, and one folder of her early small sketches and watercolors.
- Series: Frances Manola Collection of Calligraphic Art – Historical Manuscripts. Box contains a folder with photocopies of her collection of illuminated leaves from 15th to 16th century religious texts. The originals have been cataloged in the library collection and in the Digital Scriptorium.
Box 9 – Manuscript box (10 ½ x 15 ¾ x 5). Organized by series, then alphabetically by folder name.
- Series: Teaching. Box contains the entire series, with the exception of the original of an instruction sheet for using the Ames Lettering Guide, which is in an oversized flat box (Box 2, Folder23). A photocopy of the instruction sheet is in this box.
Box 10 – Manuscript box (10 ½ x 15 ¾ x 5). Organized by series, then alphabetically by folder name.
- Series: Papers. Box contains the series from the beginning through the folder “Research on Calligraphy and Illumination – Notebook, Folder 1.”
Box 11 – Card file box (3 ½ x 12 ¼ x 5 ½)
- Series: Papers. Box contains Frances Manola’s Rolodex.
Box 12 – Half manuscript box (10 ½ x 15 ¾ x 2 ½). Organized by series, then alphabetically by folder name.
- Series: Papers. Box contains the series from the folder “Research on Calligraphy and Illumination – Notebook, Folder 2” through the end of the series, with the exception of Frances Manola’s Rolodex, which is housed in Box 11.
- Series: Frances Manola – Home Decorations. Box contains the folder holding small works that were originally framed and hung on the walls of her house.
A number of books in Frances Manola’s personal library have been cataloged and placed in the library collection. These include the works by Paul Standard, which are represented here by photocopies, Edition One: Letter to a Friend, The Capitals from the Trajan Column at Rome by Frederic W. Goudy and others.
Papers and art were removed from original notebooks and folders and placed in archival folders and housing. In addition, some order was imposed on the papers, as it was not always clear if arrangement was hers, or from later handling. Where removed from original context during processing, reference has been made to Frances Manola’s original placement of the material.
- Guide to the Frances Manola Collection
- Edited Full Draft
- Michael Joseph and Elizabeth M. Phillips
- August 2014
- Language of description note
- Finding aid is written in English.
- Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.
- March 2009: Items listed as n.d. changed to undated, per DACS
- September 2009: revised coding to add encoding analogs to some elements per the EAD report card
Part of the New Brunswick Special Collections Repository