The early weeks of December often bring a welcome variety to one’s mailbox: Christmas cards. These envelopes, a nice respite from the usual junk mail and bills, reflect a long-held tradition of exchanging postal pleasantries at Christmastime. The Weeks family, who built Salisbury House in the 1920s, kept this custom as well. Our collections here at the museum contain a few samples of the Weekses’ own Christmas cards, and other cards and holiday greetings penned by well-known artists and writers of the twentieth century.
“If Salisbury House does not feel one hundred years old on the day that we finish,” Carl Weeks once intoned, “then we have failed.” Happily, Weeks’ goal was beautifully realized upon the completion of his new home in the 1920s. Certain portions of the house, however, were decidedly modern. The bathrooms of Salisbury House – all sixteen of them – reflected the detailed attention to high-end furnishings that made the Weekses’ home, in Carl’s words, “a harmonious association of the centuries.”
Carl Weeks was a man of action. “If you dream it,” he once declared, “you can build it.” Weeks achieved a considerable amount of success in his life: a magnate of the cosmetics industry, his business made him a millionaire by his mid-forties. Salisbury House itself stands as a testament to the man’s financial success and purposeful vision.
The Limited Editions Club (LEC) was a publishing house founded in 1929 by George Macy in the heyday of the private press movement. The LEC was dedicated to producing small runs of exquisitely made and finely illustrated books, some of them literary classics, and some of them important contemporary works. Generally, the LEC would issue a dozen books each year, with only 1,500 copies of each item printed. They were often signed by the artists, designers, authors, bookmakers or others associated with the titles in question.
We have a ten-page typed document in our files with a hand-written note atop the first page reading: “Guide to Salisbury House, by Carl Weeks. Prior to or at the time of ISEA possession.” It is a first person narrative describing many of the important objects in the Salisbury House public spaces. Interestingly, it is not actually Carl Weeks’ telling of the tale, as the unnamed narrator often refers to “Mr. Weeks” when discussing the acquisition, provenance or assessment of particular pieces.
The Library at Salisbury House contains an undeniably important collection of early 20th Century, English-language literature and manuscripts, providing yet another enduring testament to the high levels of critical foresight and refinement that Carl and Edith Weeks applied when making their various cultural acquisitions. Interestingly enough, the act of purchasing some of the most important books in the Library also likely involved Carl and Edith skirting the laws of the day, as the works of James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner and many others were banned regionally, nationally or even internationally at the time of their publication.