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Joseph Cornell papers, 1804-1986, bulk 1939-1972

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Series 3: Diaries , 1941-1973
(boxes 6-10; 5 linear feet)

Series is comprised of Cornell's diaries, which are unconventional in form, consisting of entries, notes, and writings recorded on loose sheets and scraps of paper, as well as in the margins of newspapers, on the backs of used envelopes, on creased paper bags, napkins, labels, train tickets, library slips, blank telegram forms, calling cards, and parts of bakery boxes. Included are other items, such as TV Guide pages, dried leaves and flowers, cutouts, plastic and metal objects, and a part of a whisk broom, collected by Cornell presumably because they related, in one way or another, to what he was recording.
Diaries record Cornell's day-to-day experiences (sometimes in very minute detail), with allusions to: the books he read, the music he listened to, the films he watched, and the many "sparkings" he received from them; his various finds ("trouvailles") while hunting for material; his thoughts and practices relating to Christian Science; the meals and snacks he ate; the places he went and the sights he saw during his city wanderings; the evocations brought on by ordinary, everyday things; the tensions at home; the people who visited him; the "teeners," "fees," and other women who captured his imagination; his dreamings and awakenings; and his thoughts, feelings, impressions, and ideas during the course of a day.
Diaries also record and reflect on Cornell's various art projects, with references to particular box constructions, box series, collages, and films on which he is working, and to ideas and inspirations for new projects, as well as some commentary on his chosen mediums, the creative process, and the final products. They explore many of the themes that recur in Cornell's art work, including, among others, his fascination with actresses and ballerinas of the past and present, and his abiding appreciation of birds, the night sky, and nature. They also reflect on many of the ideas and concerns underlying his art work and other creative activities, such as his preoccupation with the past, his notions of "metaphysique d'ephemera" (the metaphysical aspects of ephemera) and "the beauty of the commonplace," and his concern to recapture past experiences in his art works and other projects.
Diaries record and reflect on Cornell's wide-ranging "explorations," ranging from GC 44 (with references to his initial experiences during the time he was working at the Garden Centre nursery, and to his subsequent and on-going attempts to recreate the flavor and atmosphere of those days) to Portrait of Ondine (with references to the early inspirations of discovering a portrait of Fanny Cerrito and of seeing a vision of her in a warehouse window, and to his later efforts to compile and create an "unauthorized biography" of the ballerina). They also refer to his many other creative activities, including various research and collecting ventures, such as regular browsing in secondhand book stalls and stores, visits to the library, accumulating material and compiling files on people and topics; and various publishing ventures, such as his contributions to Dance Index and View, and his self-publications, Maria and Bel Canto Pet. They comment on the act of keeping a diary, expressing many times over some of Cornell's deepest concerns about the necessity and difficulty of trying to capture experience "before it fades" and the discrepancy between the original experience and the "cataloguing" of it in writing.
Diaries document Cornell's on-going preoccupations with certain historical and cultural figures, such as the ballerinas, Marie Taglioni and Fanny Cerrito, the singers, Maria Malibran and Raquel Meller, various composers (from Mozart to Satie), the author, Gerard de Nerval, the artists, Delacroix and Vermeer, and various actresses of stage and screen (from Jeanne Eagels to Claire Bloom). Later diaries are taken up with Cornell's episodic preoccupations with various young women he encountered along Main Street (waitresses and shopgirls) or at home ("helpers," young artists, and friends).
Distinguishing between consistently dated material that was organized into chronological files and mostly undated material that was organized into bulk files, the Diaries series is arranged into two subseries:
  • 3.1: Diary Entries, 1941-1972
  • 3.2: Diary Notations, 1941-1973
This series has been scanned in entirety.
3.1: Diary Entries, 1941-1972
DescriptionContainer
1941-1944
6
1
1945
6
2
1946
6
3
1947
6
4
1948
6
5
1949
6
6
1950
6
7
January-May, 1951
6
8
June-September, 1951
6
9
October-December, 1951
6
10
January-February, 1952
6
11
March-April, 1952
6
12
May-June, 1952
6
13
July-August, 1952
6
14
September-October, 1952
6
15
November-December, 1952
6
16
January-February, 1953
6
17
March-April, 1953
6
18
May-June, 1953
6
19
July, 1953
6
20
August, 1953
6
21
September-October, 1953
6
22
November-December, 1953
6
23
January, 1954
6
24
February, 1954
6
25
March, 1954
6
26
April, 1954
6
27
May, 1954
6
28
June, 1954
6
29
July, 1954
6
30
August, 1954
6
31
September, 1954
6
32
October, 1954
6
33
November, 1954
6
34
December, 1954
6
35
January, 1955
6
36
February, 1955
6
37
March, 1955
6
38
April, 1955
6
39
May, 1955
6
40
June, 1955
6
41
July, 1955
6
42
August, 1955
6
43
September, 1955
6
44
October, 1955
6
45
November, 1955
6
46
December, 1955
6
47
January, 1956
6
48
February, 1956
6
49
March, 1956
6
50
April, 1956
6
51
May, 1956
6
52
June, 1956
6
53
July, 1956
6
54
August, 1956
6
55
September, 1956
6
56
October, 1956
6
57
November, 1956
6
58
December, 1956
6
59
January-February, 1957
7
1
March-April, 1957
7
2
May-June, 1957
7
3
July-August, 1957
7
4
September-October, 1957
7
5
November-December, 1957
7
6
January-February, 1958
7
7
March, 1958
7
8
April, 1958
7
9
May-June, 1958
7
10
July, 1958
7
11
August, 1958
7
12
September, 1958
7
13
October-November, 1958
7
14
December, 1958
7
15
January, 1959
7
16
February, 1959
7
17
March, 1959
7
18
April, 1959
7
19
May, 1959
7
20
June, 1959
7
21
July, 1959
7
22
August, 1959
7
23
September-October, 1959
7
24
November, 1959
7
25
December, 1959
7
26
January, 1960
7
27
February, 1960
7
28
March, 1960
7
29
April, 1960
7
30
May, 1960
7
31
June, 1960
7
32
July, 1960
7
33
August, 1960
7
34
September, 1960
7
35
October, 1960
7
36
November, 1960
7
37
December, 1960
7
38
January-February, 1961
7
39
March, 1961
7
40
April, 1961
7
41
May, 1961
7
42
June, 1961
7
43
July, 1961
7
44
August, 1961
7
45
September, 1961
7
46
October, 1961
7
47
November, 1961
7
48
December, 1961
7
49
January, 1962
7
50
February, 1962
7
51
March, 1962
7
52
April, 1962
7
53
May, 1962
7
54
June, 1962
7
55
July, 1962
7
56
August, 1962
7
57
September, 1962
7
58
October, 1962
7
59
November, 1962
7
60
December, 1962
7
61
January, 1963
8
1
February, 1963
8
2
March, 1963
8
3
April, 1963
8
4
May, 1963
8
5
June, 1963
8
6
July, 1963
8
7
August, 1963
8
8
September, 1963
8
9
October, 1963
8
10
November, 1963
8
11
December, 1963
8
12
January, 1964
8
13
February, 1964
8
14
March, 1964
8
15
April, 1964
8
16
May, 1964
8
17
June, 1964
8
18
July, 1964
8
19
August, 1964
8
20
September, 1964
8
21
October, 1964
8
22
November, 1964
8
23
December, 1964
8
24
January, 1965
8
25
February, 1965
8
26
March, 1965
8
27
April, 1965
8
28
May, 1965
8
29
June, 1965
8
30
July, 1965
8
31
August, 1965
8
32
September, 1965
8
33
October, 1965
8
34
November, 1965
8
35
December, 1965
8
36
January, 1966
8
37
February, 1966
8
38
March, 1966
8
39
April, 1966
8
40
May, 1966
8
41
June, 1966
8
42
July, 1966
8
43
August, 1966
8
44
September, 1966
8
45
October, 1966
8
46
November, 1966
8
47
December, 1966
8
48
January, 1967
8
49
February, 1967
8
50
March, 1967
8
51
April, 1967
8
52
May, 1967
8
53
June, 1967
8
54
July, 1967
8
55
August, 1967
8
56
September, 1967
8
57
October, 1967
(2 folders)
8
58-59
November, 1967
8
60
December, 1967
8
61
January, 1968
9
1
February, 1968
9
2
March, 1968
9
3
April, 1968
9
4
May, 1968
(2 folders)
9
5-6
June, 1968
(2 folders)
9
7-8
July, 1968
9
9
August, 1968
9
10
September, 1968
(2 folders)
9
11-12
October, 1968
(2 folders)
9
13-14
November, 1968
(2 folders)
9
15-16
December, 1968
9
17
January, 1969
(2 folders)
9
18-19
February, 1969
(2 folders)
9
20-21
March, 1969
9
22
April, 1969
9
23
May, 1969
9
24
June, 1969
9
25
July, 1969
9
26
August, 1969
(2 folders)
9
27-28
September, 1969
(2 folders)
9
29-30
October, 1969
9
31
November, 1969
(2 folders)
9
32-33
December, 1969
(2 folders)
9
34-35
January, 1970
9
36
February, 1970
9
37
March, 1970
9
38
April, 1970
9
39
May, 1970
9
40
June, 1970
9
41
July, 1970
9
42
August, 1970
9
43
September, 1970
(2 folders)
9
44-45
October, 1970
(2 folders)
9
46-47
November, 1970
9
48
December, 1970
9
49
January, 1971
(2 folders)
9
50-51
February, 1971
9
52
March, 1971
9
53
April, 1971
9
54
May, 1971
9
55
June, 1971
10
1
July, 1971
10
2
August, 1971
(2 folders)
10
3-4
September, 1971
(2 folders)
10
5-6
October, 1971
10
7
November, 1971
10
8
December, 1971
(2 folders)
10
9-10
January, 1972
(2 folders)
10
11-12
February, 1972
(2 folders)
10
13-14
March, 1972
10
15
April, 1972
10
16
May, 1972
10
17
June, 1972
10
18
July, 1972
10
19
August, 1972
10
20
September, 1972
10
21
October, 1972
(3 folders)
10
22-24
November, 1972
10
25
December, 1972
(2 folders)
10
26-27
3.2: Diary Notations, 1941-1973
DescriptionContainer
Notations, 1941-1972, undated
(13 folders)
10
28-40
Notes in Theme Tablet, 1969-1970
10
41
Betty Cornell Benton's Notes on the Diaries, 1973
10
42

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.