The estate of Maurice Sendak, known best for his classic book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” has succeeded in a battle to obtain most of a book collection previously loaned to a Philadelphia museum.
For many years, The Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia was home to thousands of original drawings and a portion of a book collection, loaned to the museum by author Maurice Sendak, who died in 2012. A Connecticut probate judge has awarded most of the book collection to the Sendak estate. The museum may have thought that the materials would remain there, but the estate had other plans.
The New York Times explains in "Maurice Sendak’s Estate Is Awarded Most of a Book Collection,” that some items were on loan to the Rosenbach for decades. Sendak’s will said the drawings and most of the loans would remain the property of the Maurice Sendak Foundation. In 2014, representatives of his estate withdrew the works, explaining that they intended to follow Sendak’s directive in his will to create “a museum or similar facility” in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where he lived, and where his foundation is based, “to be used by scholars, students, artists, illustrators and writers, and to be opened to the general public” as the foundation’s directors saw fit.
In 2014, the Rosenbach sued in Connecticut state probate court, claiming that the estate kept many rare books Sendak had pledged to the library in his will—including two highly valuable books by William Blake and Beatrix Potter. The judge ruled that the Blake illuminated works, which could be worth millions of dollars, didn’t fit Sendak’s specific language in his will that the museum should receive “rare edition books.” The estate claimed that the Blake pieces were not edition books, but rather were more like unique works.
The museum argued that the books fit the will’s description, but that Sendak’s executors wanted to sell them to pay themselves executors’ fees, legal fees, and fees for serving as directors of Sendak’s foundation. But earlier this year, the judge ruled that Sendak’s Beatrix Potter books—which the estate wanted to keep—belonged to the museum because they fit the description of “rare edition” books in the will. Of the 340 items left in dispute, the judge awarded 88 to the Rosenbach and 252 to the estate and foundation.
The attorney representing the Sendak estate, Jeffrey T. Golenbock, commented that the foundation had no plans to sell the collection but wished to keep the collection to honor Mr. Sendak. There was no response to a request for comment by the Rosenbach museum.
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