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Rare Works From Leading Private Collection Highlight Connections Among Modernist Authors

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Background lithograph of Paul Verlaine, 1867.
Jules Barthélémy Péaron, (French, 1836–1882), Portrait Charge de Paul Verlaine, 1867. Background lithograph. The Annette Campbell-White Collection.

AUSTIN, Texas — Letters, books and manuscripts by authors such as T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Stéphane Mallarmé, James Joyce, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Joseph Conrad and others from the private collection of Annette Campbell-White, a pioneering venture capitalist and rare book and manuscript collector, will be the latest exhibition at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

“Modernist Networks: The Annette Campbell-White Collection” traces the connections and creative influences among the modernists across generations, disciplines and continents. The exhibit opens Aug. 24.

“The Ransom Center is renowned for its deep holdings of modernist authors, and these collections played an important role in inspiring and stimulating Annette Campbell-White’s own collecting,” Brumbalow Director Stephen Enniss said. “It is highly fitting that the Center now share with the public her extraordinary collection of rare and unique works of modernist authors, much of which has never before been on public view.”

Campbell-White founded and served as the senior managing partner of MedVenture Associates, a biomedical venture capital firm, from 1986 to 2015 and is a founding member of the Wikipedia Endowment Advisory Board. Throughout her career, she has nurtured a second passion — collecting works by modernist writers.

With her childhood spent in remote mining camps throughout the British Commonwealth, Campbell-White first discovered a vocation as a book collector after she moved to London. Later, she began her extraordinary career as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, experiencing many highpoints. She was the first biotechnology analyst on Wall Street, the first female partner at Hambrecht & Quist, the founder of MedVenture Associates and the Kia Ora Foundation, and she appeared multiple times on the Forbes Midas List.

Throughout, books sustained her, affording her a “material embodiment of that dream of a home which had eluded me all of my life,” she writes in her forthcoming memoir. “…I had created my own parallel imaginary world to which I could retreat when the noise of the real world became too overbearing.”

She recalls the impulsive purchase of the first book in her collection, T.S. Eliot’s “A Song for Simeon,” and her pursuit of rare editions of all 100 titles listed in Cyril Connolly’s The Modern Movement. It was her encounter with the Ransom Center’s 1971 exhibition that inspired her to assemble her first collection of all 100 of Connolly’s key texts.

Campbell-White sold the Connolly titles she spent more than 20 years assembling, and, regretting that decision, immediately began to build a new collection that would ultimately delve even deeper into the personal lives of significant modernist authors.

The exhibition at the Center features highlights from this substantial private collection. Visitors will have an exceptional opportunity to see original manuscripts and correspondence by Virginia Woolf (“To The Lighthouse,” “A Room of One’s Own”) and other members of Britain’s Bloomsbury Group; works by French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (“The Little Prince,” “The Aviator”); and original materials crafted by Polish-born British novelist Joseph Conrad (“Heart of Darkness,” “The Shadow-Line”).

Selections by French symbolist poets such as Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud will be on view, as well as those by prominent American authors such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“I think visitors to the exhibition will be fascinated by the personal stories revealed in the documents Annette Campbell-White has collected,” said Cathy Henderson, the Ransom Center’s associate director of exhibitions and education. “They reveal the modernist writers as they were establishing their careers, sometimes struggling to create, enjoying success, or suffering diminished expectations.”

The exhibition at the Center coincides with the publication of a personal memoir, “Beyond Market Value: A Memoir of Book Collecting and the World of Venture Capital” (UT Press, 2019), offering a detailed and compelling backstory to this selection of highlights from her collection. President Emeritus Thomas A. Goldwasser of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America calls her memoir an “…insightful view of collecting in the world of literary modernism.”

The “Modernist Networks: The Annette Campbell-White Collection” exhibition will be on view in the Ransom Center’s galleries through Jan. 5, 2020. Galleries are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. Docent-led tours are offered every day at noon, with additional evening and weekend tours. Admission and tours are free. More information online at www.hrc.utexas.edu.