Duke’s Catalogue of Cabell’s Library

page from Maurice Duke's Catalogue of Cabell's library
James Branch Cabell’s Library : a Catalogue, p. 32 (annotated)
by Maurice Duke, VCU Libraries

In 1968, Maurice Duke, a professor of English at Richmond Professional Institute (RPI), began to catalog Cabell’s books giving each work a sequential number and a letter designation indicating its location within the Cabell home on Monument Avenue or the summer home, Poynton Lodge, on Virginia’s Northern Neck.  The sequential number is referred to as the “Duke number” in VCU Libraries’ cataloging system and digital collections.

Duke’s article “James Branch Cabell’s Personal Library” provides a useful summary of this work, examples of inscriptions found in Cabell’s books and other authors’ presentation copies and questions Duke considered worthy of further study (Studies in Bibliography, vol. 23, 1970, pp. 207–216). 

Each entry in the Catalogue provides the author, title, publisher information and year, as well as other interesting descriptive elements. The location of each book, pamphlet or magazine within Cabell’s home is indicated, revealing the author’s conceptualization of his collection. The Catalogue also describes the contents of each book in Cabell’s library, including the bookplate, any autograph or dedication and the objects enclosed.

VCU Libraries Digital Collections contains two copies of Duke’s Catalogue. The “unannotated” copy features light corrections from Edgar McDonald, Cabell biographer and Senior Cabell scholar at VCU Libraries from 1984 until his death in 2011. McDonald’s edits in the introduction amplify Duke’s description, including a clarification that Cabell’s first library was not destroyed in a fire. There are also numerous corrections from other librarians and library staff.

Staff in VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives created the “annotated” version to assist in managing Cabell’s personal library. Some annotations across the annotated and unannotated versions are explicitly contradictory, and researchers will find it valuable to consult both versions of the text.

VCU Libraries Digital Collections also features a dataset compiled from MARC records of the current holdings of the James Branch Cabell Collection (VCU) and information from the bibliography.

Cabell’s nearly 3,000-volume library is now housed in the Cabell Room at Virginia Commonwealth University’s James Branch Cabell Library. Physical copies of Duke’s dissertation are housed in Special Collections and Archives and, like books in the Cabell Room, are available for researchers. Please direct research inquiries regarding physical volumes to libjbcsca@vcu.edu or call (804) 828-1108.