Jack London’s writing tablet on display at The Huntington:
Friends Hall at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA
Sue Hodson surprised and enchanted dozens of Jack London scholars when
she made possible the first public exhibit of Jack London’s writing
tablet since 1917, at the Huntington Library Friday Oct. 10, 2008.
The writing tablet was created in 1903, by famous California sculptor
Arthur Putnam, with inspiration taken directly from London’s most
famous novel, The Call of the Wild.
This exhibit was held during the "9th Biennial Jack London Symposium",
which fit in perfectly with this years symposium theme: The Call of the Wild.
Christian Chaffee, the owner of the writing tablet said: "The Huntington
Library is the perfect setting for this first exhibition. Not only does
the Huntington maintain the largest collection of Jack London items, but
Sue Hodson’s personal assistance, and intimate knowledge of the
extensive archives, has lead to the discovery of critical information,
which lead to the full authentication in 2003."
Jeanne Reesman PhD, Executive Coordinator of The Jack London Society
was impressed by the beautiful carving, commenting that "the dog
looks just as one would expect "Buck" to look as he is described
in The Call of the Wild. Dr. Reesman went on to say "Buck" is
a mixed breed, a Saint Bernard / Scotch Shepherd cross, which made him
a large dog, and gave him a wolf like appearance.
The redwood sculpture caused quite a stir among London scholars, as the
unique writing tablet was not previously known to exist.
During the morning, there were many enchanted scholars who were amazed
that such an object could have been missing for so long, and still surface
in good original condition.
There were many questions asked: Where was this found? Does Milo Shepard
know about this? Is this writing tablet the property of the Huntington?
Is it for sale? What are the plans for it?
At the luncheon, there were several discussions regarding the tablet,
and one discussion was fueled by the question: "Does the Huntington
own the tablet". When it was revealed that the writing tablet is
privately owned, inquiries were made regarding the possible purchase of
the writing tablet. Chaffee informed attendees, that the tablet was not
for sale at this time, but included that it may be considered in the future.
One spirited conversation centered on the issue of private citizen’s
owning historically important objects. The book "Playing Darts with
a Rembrandt" was brought up, as some felt that there are unique items
that are just too important to be entrusted to any one person. The obvious
implication being that such items should
be preserved by institutions which are designed to display, preserve,
and safeguard historically important objects for the benefit of the public.
It was also mentioned that many historically important objects were initially
in private hands and most will, in time, make their way into public museums
and other publicly accessible institutions.
The exhibit was a fun, interesting, and amazing surprise for all those
who were lucky enough to see this lost work of art for the first time
in over 90 years.
A special thanks to those who contributed their time and energy to make
this exhibit possible: Sue Hodson, Jeanne Reesman, Christian Chaffee,
Tomas Jankovic, Brianne Cross, and Matthew Watkins.
More images of the Symposium