Rosenbach Museum Sues Maurice Sendak Estate

Battle for control over rare books from author's collection.

A canceled stamp featuring one of the monsters from Where the While Things Are.

A canceled stamp featuring one of the monsters from Where the While Things Are. |

Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum and Library is suing Maurice Sendak’s estate, saying the late author intended to bequeath his book collection to the museum, and for his work to continue to be displayed there.

The Inquirer reports:

According to the suit, the Sendak trustees have turned over fewer than half the hundreds of items in Sendak’s rare-book collection. In fact, the estate has told the Rosenbach it had no intention of transferring ownership of several extremely valuable volumes by Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter because they are children’s books, not rare books, the suit states. The Rosenbach calls that reasoning not only faulty but rife with irony: Sendak argued that divisions between adult and children’s literature were invalid – in his work as well as that of others. He called Potter’s works “the literary equivalent of the greatest English prose writers that have lived.”

The Rosenbach does not dispute that 10,000 books, manuscripts, illustrations, and other materials long on deposit at the museum and library are owned by Sendak’s estate to support a proposed museum and study center in his Connecticut home. But his will directed the estate and Rosenbach to reach a deal whereby the museum would continue to display many items.

Such a deal, long expected, has not been reached.

Adding urgency to the suit: The estate plans a January 21st auction, and Rosenbach officials believe some items owed it are to be put up for sale.

Sendak, most famous as author of Where the Wild Things Are, and the Rosenbach had a relationship going back to the 1960s, when he began depositing his work there.