The University Press of Kentucky Celebrates the Publication of THE LETTERS OF THOMAS MERTON AND VICTOR AND CAROLYN HAMMER, 12/12
University Press of Kentucky, in partnership with The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky and University of Kentucky Libraries, will celebrate the publication of The Letters of Thomas Merton and Victor and Carolyn Hammer: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam with editors Paul Evans Holbrook, Jr. and F. Douglas Scutchfield. The event will include remarks from the editors and features an installation of Victor Hammers' paintings, drawings, and mezzotints. Books will be available for purchase from the museum gift shop. It will be held:
Friday, December 12, 2014, 6 pm
Art Museum at UK
Singletary Center for the Arts
405 Rose Street, Lexington, KY
Poet, social justice activist, and theologian Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. In his short lifetime, he penned over seventy books including The Seven Storey Mountain which sold over a million copies while significantly raising his national public profile. Merton also maintained a brisk correspondence with a variety of colleagues around the globe. Among those with whom Merton corresponded during the mid-1950s to the end of his life were Victor Hammer and his wife, Carolyn. However, many Merton scholars and fans remain unaware of the significant body of letters that the Trappist monk exchanged with Victor and Carolyn.
Unable to leave his home at the Abbey of Gethsemani except on special occasions, Merton developed a close friendship with Victor and Carolyn Hammer from nearby Lexington, Kentucky. Carolyn Reading Hammer (1911-2001), a Bluegrass native from Paris, Kentucky, was a founder of the King Library Press at the University of Kentucky and supplied Merton with many of the books he required for his writing and teaching. The Austrian-born Victor Hammer (1882-1967) was an accomplished painter, sculptor, printer, and architect. The correspondence between Merton and the Hammers began in September 1955 and lasted beyond Victor Hammer's death in 1967, until Merton's own death in 1968.
Their letters, arranged chronologically, vividly demonstrate a blossoming intellectual camaraderie, from professional discussions of printing costs to richly articulated explorations of religion and aesthetics. They also provide a unique opportunity to understand Merton's evolving philosophies, as his requests for books from Carolyn reflect his reading interests during the thirteen years spanned by their correspondence. Often profound, at times humorous, the letters in this volume reveal a rare friendship and offer new insights into the creative intellect of Thomas Merton.
F. Douglas Scutchfield is the inaugural Peter P. Bosomworth Professor of Health Services Research and Policy at the University of Kentucky.
Paul Evans Holbrook Jr. has taught philosophy and comparative religion at the University of Kentucky and ethics at Midway College. He was an apprentice to Carolyn Hammer and serves as bibliographer to the Hammer estate. Since 1988, he has served as director of the King Library Press at the University of Kentucky.