On Feb. 9, 1964, more than 73 million viewers tuned in to “The Ed Sullivan Show” and watched a performance by a then-unheard of pop music group from Liverpool, England, called The Beatles. The group’s mesmerizing performance marked the arrival of Beatlemania in North America, triggering countless musical and cultural trends over the band’s seven-year run.
Aside from their signature rock ‘n’ roll sound and instantly recognizable hairstyles, The Beatles have also made a lesser-known mark on another medium: publishing.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ history-making appearance, Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts is launching a special exhibit, “Tomorrow Never Knows: The Beatles in Text and Image.” The exhibit, which will run Feb. 24 through Aug. 11 in the Kamin Gallery on the first floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, will trace the representation of the iconic group through approximately 100 pieces from various formats, including mass-market paperbacks, periodicals, ephemera, and deluxe, signed editions.
“Since it’s very unusual to see Beatles exhibitions that don’t revolve around memorabilia, nostalgia, or non-printed materials, I thought this exhibition could be an interesting opportunity to illustrate how The Beatles have become a part of print culture,” says David McKnight, director of the Kislak Center’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
The exhibit, which is composed largely of items from McKnight’s personal collection, will include hard-to-find and unique books such as “Kaleidoscope Eyes: A Day in the Life of Sgt. Pepper” (Curvebender Publishing), which features the work of photographer Harry Grossman, who had unprecedented access to The Beatles; “Postcards from the Boys” (Genesis Publications), a limited edition, two-volume set featuring postcards sent from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison to Ringo Starr; and “The Beatles Anthology” (Chronicle Books), a two-volume catalogue that reflects the Russian obsession with the band.
Though the bulk of the collection is print media, the exhibition will also feature a few quirky Beatles-themed items, such as recordings, e-books, board games, jigsaw puzzles, mugs, product packaging, and a Sgt. Pepper cookie jar.
“One of the things you can easily infer from viewing this exhibit is that not only did The Beatles have this massive influence on music, but they continue to inspire other artists to create and reinterpret their stories through these widely diverse mediums,” says Andrea Gottschalk, exhibition designer and coordinator for the Kislak Center.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Penn Libraries will also host several events and a symposium to honor the legacy of The Beatles.
An opening reception will take place on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the Kamin Gallery featuring the Philadelphia book launch of Jude Southerland Kessler’s “She Loves You,” the third of her nine biographical novels on the life of John Lennon.
The symposium, which will run from Feb. 28 through March 1, will examine the exhibition’s texts and images through conversations with speakers such as Larry Kane, author of two books on The Beatles and one on John Lennon; Al Sussman, executive editor of Beatlefan Magazine; and Anthony DeCurtis, a lecturer in Penn’s Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine.
“The Beatles have sold more than a billion albums since 1964. They’ve had an enormous impact on the Boomers generation, and their music lives on and continues to attract younger audiences,” McKnight says. “They certainly have had an impact on opening up avenues of creativity and a sense of wonder about the world through their music and their ideals.”
Additional events at Van Pelt include a Beatles-themed quizzo game, movie screening, and karaoke night.
For more information or to register for these events, visit the Penn Libraries website or call 215-898-7088.