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Honorary Membership Appointed to Elisabeth Fairman

Elisabeth Fairman, Chief Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, has retired from the Yale Center for British Art on January 30, 2021, concluding a career that spans nearly four decades. Fairman was recently nominated and appointed Honorary Membership with the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association.

Elisabeth Fairman, Chief Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, has retired from the Yale Center for British Art on January 30, 2021, concluding a career that spans nearly four decades. Fairman was recently nominated and appointed Honorary Membership with the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association.

Fairman joined the Center as the Catalogue Librarian in 1982, and later, after expanding her curatorial duties, held the positions of Associate Curator for Rare Books (1991), Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts (1998), and Senior Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts (2008). During her tenure, the department’s holdings have grown to encompass approximately 35,000 volumes dating from the fifteenth century to the present, representing a broad range of material relating to the visual arts and cultural life in the United Kingdom and the former British Empire.

Speaking on her time at the Centre, Fairman says “My time has been the best possible experience, start to finish. I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues—especially during this strange year while we’ve all been working remotely,” said Fairman. “One of my great joys was working with contemporary artists and introducing their work to students and our visitors. I’ve also greatly appreciated the opportunity to acquire some wonderful objects for the collections that I hope will be of interest to a wide audience for years to come. I am very grateful to so many of the hardworking and dedicated rare book and manuscript dealers of the ABA who introduced me to some amazing things. It has been a privilege to work with them.”

Fairman supervised the implementation of a robust cataloguing program that has allowed access to the department’s collections. She regularly writes and teaches from the collections, assisting students, faculty, scholars, and researchers from all over the world. In her time at the Center, Fairman curated over thirty exhibitions on a wide and diverse range of subjects.

Fairman received her MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her BA from Earlham College. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Linnean Society, both in London, as well as a Fellow of Davenport College; she is a member of the Print Council of America and the Elizabethan Club of Yale University. She was formerly cochair of the Adrian Van Sinderen Book Collecting Prize, established in 1957 to encourage Yale undergraduates to collect books, and to read for pleasure and education.