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Virgil Burnett collection

Identifier: HC.MC-845

Scope and Contents

The collection is comprised chiefly of the work of Virgil Burnett, author, publisher, and illustrator (1928-2012), and donated to the College by his daughter, Maud Burnett McInerney (Haverford faculty member in the department of English, 1995–). The collection covers work from 1961–2010 and includes: cover art; illustrated texts; literary works written, edited, and illustrated by Burnett; flyers; newspaper clippings; and exhibit catalogs, brochures, and guides. Illustrations are mostly black-and-white line drawings, with some burin engravings. The original accession contains roughly one fourth of the works published by Pasdeloup Press, Burnett's own publishing company, between 1966 and 2010. Additional material has been added to the collection through direct purchasing and is included in the series "Purchased Material."


  • Creation: 1961 - 2010


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard federal copyright laws (U.S. Title 17) apply.

Biographical note

Virgil Burnett was born in 1928 in Wichita, Kansas, to a miller and builder who travelled widely within the United States. He attended Columbia University in New York as an undergraduate, studying painting with Edward Melcarth (1914-1973), an artist who endowed his working-class subjects in Venice with the monumentality of the great Renaissance Venetian masters who were his inspiration. Burnett was drafted into the Korean War shortly after he received his degree from Columbia. He trained as a combat engineer but spent his two years in service working as an artist-illustrator for an anti-Soviet propaganda company in Germany. Burnett worked for NATO, teaching drawing, for a few years after his service. He subsequently enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, from which he graduated with a master's degree in art history in 1956. He studied the influence of English literary masters on Delacroix’s work, marking the beginning of his interest in the relationship between art and text. Burnett continued his education with a Fulbright scholarship to study in Paris from 1956-1957. There he met a number of significant literary and artistic figures, in particular Maurice Darantière (1882-1962), a noted master printer and publisher of fine books who published the works of distinguished French authors, as well as the original edition of James Joyce's Ulysses. Darantière inspired Burnett to pursue a career in the book arts, helping him to realize his potential as an artist and illustrator. Throughout the 1960s, Burnett worked as an illustrator on commissions, primarily designing book covers for Penguin. During this period, he founded Pasdeloup Press, which produced its first work, Le roi s’amuse, in 1966. In the years that followed, Burnett worked with a number of talented poets and authors, such as Daryl Hine (1936-2012), A.D. Hope (1907-2000), and Maurice English (1909-1983). In the 1970s, he began seriously writing and illustrating his own works, including Skiamachia (1977), Towers at the Edge of a World: Tales of a Medieval Town (1980), and A Comedy of Eros (1984). From 1973 to his retirement in 1992, Burnett worked as a professor of fine arts at the University of Waterloo in Stratford, Ontario. After his retirement, he turned to sculpture and began experimenting with terracotta sculptures of the female form until his death in 2012.

Information culled from local sources. Some information taken from Virgil Burnett Illustrator (2006) by Jo Bordley Neglo.


1.5 linear ft. (1 box)

Language of Materials



This collection is composed chiefly of books and essays illustrated and/or authored by Virgil Burnett (1928-2012) and donated by his daughter Maud Burnett McInerney, Haverford faculty member (1995-). Additional material has been added to the collection through direct purchase.


The Virgil Burnett collection was donated to Special Collections, Haverford College in 2013 by Maud Burnett McInerney.

Related Materials

Virgil Burnett fonds at the University of Waterloo Library Special Collections, Ontario, Canada. Includes correspondence, manuscripts, illustrations, and other materials created and received by Virgil Burnett from the 1950s to 1990s. (See

Virgil Burnett special collection at the National Gallery of Canada, Ontario, Canada. Contains over 200 items and surveys more than forty years of his work. (See

Original Accession

25 Books

16 Dust Jackets

6 Exhibition Catalogs / Flyers

6 ephemeral essays or chapters

21 small sketches

2 newspaper clippings

Processing Information

Processed by Helen Farley; completed June, 2013.

Virgil Burnett collection, 1961-2010
Helen Farley
June 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US