(Amherst, Mass., March 18, 2021) — In honor and celebration of the Western Massachusetts institution’s 200th anniversary this year, Amherst College has released three new books: Eye Mind Heart: A View of Amherst College at 200, the signature book of the Bicentennial, by Nancy Pick ’83; Amherst College: The Campus Guide, by Blair Kamin ’79 (Princeton Architectural Press); and Amherst in the World by Martha Saxton, professor of history and sexuality, women’s and gender studies and Elizabeth W. Bruss Reader, emerita. All three are available for purchase on the Bicentennial website.
“Among many other things, Amherst has long been known as ‘The Writing College,’” said Amherst President Biddy Martin, “and we are celebrating the Bicentennial with the publication of these three books. They illuminate aspects of the history of the College with emphasis on its firsts, its quirks, little-known facts, thinkers, architecture and so much more. I hope they might add to a very happy 200th anniversary to every member of the Amherst community.”
Eye Mind Heart: A View of Amherst College at 200
In her quest to write the College’s history, author Nancy Pick ’83 wondered what it was actually like to be at Amherst at different times in the past. What classes did students take in 1821? What were admissions requirements in 1921? What did students protest about in 1971? The result is Eye Mind Heart: A View of Amherst College at 200, a beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated book that aims to be as entertaining as it is illuminating. Based on years of research, the book shares the familiar as well as untold stories of the people of the College—the poets, Nobel Prize winners and groundbreakers, to name a few. She also delves into the controversies. “When I took on this project in 2015, my assignment from the College was to write the book I’d want to read,” said Pick, a former newspaper journalist and the author of three previous books about history.
Pick, a former reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun, is the author of several books. Her first, The Rarest of the Rare (HarperCollins/Scala Arts), about the treasures of Harvard’s natural history collections, was named one of the best science books of the year by Discover magazine. In 2018, her book Les Ombres de Stig Dagerman (The Writer and the Refugee), written together with Lo Dagerman, was published in France by Maurice Nadeau.
Amherst College: The Campus Guide
The beautifully photographed guide tells the stories of nearly 100 campus buildings, landscapes, sculptures and interiors. Organized as a series of six walks, it takes the reader on a richly engaging tour through time and space, history and culture. The last chapter covers three notable off-campus buildings: the Five College Library Depository, better known as The Bunker; Amherst House at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, built in 1932 to resemble an Amherst fraternity house; and the architecturally distinguished Folger Shakespeare Library, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., that illuminates the life, work and times of the great playwright. Throughout Amherst College: The Campus Guide, Kamin ’79 interweaves in-depth analyses of the College’s building and landscape architecture with campus lore. Readers will learn, for example, of the townspeople who gathered to construct Amherst’s first building, South College, in 1820, and how the poet Emily Dickinson’s grandfather secured a donation from a farmer in nearby Pelham to fund the iconic Johnson Chapel. A specially commissioned hand-drawn map locates buildings and highlights historic and contemporary architecture elements throughout the Amherst campus.
Blair Kamin ’79 is the Pulitzer Prize-winning former architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune.
Amherst in the World
A group of scholars and alumni explores the College’s considerable past in Amherst in the World. The book’s contributors trace the story of how an institution that was founded to train Protestant ministers began educating new generations of industrialists, bankers and political leaders with the decline in missionary ambitions after the Civil War. The writers also explore how what was a largely white school from its founding began to diversify its student demographics after World War II and the war in Vietnam. The pieces illuminate how Amherst has contended with slavery, wars, religion, coeducation, science, curriculum, town and gown relations, governance and funding during its two centuries. Through Amherst’s engagement with educational improvement in light of these historical changes, it continually affirms both the vitality and the utility of a liberal arts education.
In addition to serving as editor of Amherst in the World, Saxton has written biographies of actress Jayne Mansfield and author Louisa May Alcott, and is also the author of Being Good: Women's Moral Values in Early America. Her most recent book, The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington, was a finalist for the 2020 George Washington Book Prize.