Monday, July 20, 2015

Chester Beatty's Collections

Genius can assert itself at an early age. As a teen boy, Chester Beatty (1875 - 1968) liked to collect colorful stones and minerals. One day his father took him to a big auction held on Broadway in New York. Sitting in the front row they saw a fragment of mineral calcite with a shade of pink overlaid with crystals of apatite, a perfect formation sparkled in what little light infiltrated the smoky atmosphere. In response to the auctioneer’s request for a bid, the boy raised his ‘ten cents’ bid. The boyish tense voice reverberated and froze the room for a moment. Despite the eccentric price, no other bid was offered when they found the boy was serious. The auctioneer hammered his gavel, announcing, “The boy beat us all.” It was the first treasure Chester won in his life.

He continued his hobby when he enrolled at Columbia University School of Mines. He started out as a $2 a day mucker and rose to be the King of Copper in Colorado, and was a millionaire by his mid-30s. He was later inducted in the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, Colorado. While keeping his interests in mining, he left the U.S. with his family and became a naturalized British citizen in 1933, traveling to Africa often, partly to ease his respiratory spells from his younger days laboring in the mines.

Beatty’s propensity for collecting minerals, stamps, Chinese Snuff Bottles, etc. expanded greatly with his added passion for books and manuscripts. Along with the finding of his northern Rhodesian copper belts, he sought Egyptian Papyrus Texts, Biblical and Qur’an Archives, Oriental arts and artifacts, ending up holding one of the foremost personal collections of Ancient Art, Culture and Literature in World History.

Though Beatty received knighthood after WWII for his significant contributions to the Allied War Effort for supplying strategic raw materials, he was disillusioned with the Labour Party’s bureaucratic policies and relocated to Dublin and decided to donate his treasures to Ireland. In 1957 Beatty became Ireland’s first honorary citizen and upon his death in 1968 was accorded a State Funeral.

In celebration of his 125th birthday, Chester Beatty’s Library opened in 2000 on the grounds of Dublin Castle.

Prominently included in this Ireland Library is the “Eternal Love” picture story of Yang Guihei, by Japanese artist Sansetsu Kano (1589-1651), inspired by Bai Juyi, Chinese poet of 9th Century. Oh, what treasures he preserved for mankind!

Article from Irish Arts Review - "An Edo Masterwork Restored: The Chogonka Scrolls in The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin"

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