Saint Heron, the creative studio of musician Solange Knowles, is launching a public library of collector’s-edition books by or spotlighting Black poets, visual artists, designers, and luminaries. Starting this Monday, readers will be invited to borrow one of 50 titles completely free of charge: with shipping and return postage covered, there will be no expenses for borrowers, who can enjoy the books for research, study, and personal discovery for 45 days.
The dozens of publications, many of them now out of print, constitute an invaluable archive of Black brilliance. Highlights include a signed first edition of In Our Terribleness (1970) by the avant-garde poet and playwright Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka); Between the Lines: 70 Drawings and 7 Essays (1988), a monograph of artist Benny Andrews prefaced by Alice Neel; and a signed copy of Julianna Free’s La Tete (1996), a compilation of prose poetry and photography plumbing the intersection of Blackness and femininity.
There are also some unexpected finds that don’t fit easily into categories, like Madam Zenobia’s Space Age Lucky Eleven Dream and Astrology Book (1975), an oneiric exploration of the 12 sun signs of the zodiac likely authored pseudonymously by Philadelphia-based journalist Justine Rector.
Guest-curated by Rosa Duffy, who founded the Atlanta-based community bookstore For Keeps Books focused on Black rare titles and classics, Saint Heron Library’s first “season” runs through October 29; a second iteration will be forthcoming, with dates to be announced. Once returned, the books will become part of the library’s permanent collection.
These oeuvres, including works by authors and creators both well-known and undervalued in literature and arts circuits, can “expand imaginations,” Knowles says in a statement.
The books will become available to rent out at saintheron.com on a first come, first serve basis on Monday, October 18, at 12pm EST.
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