Elihu Yale : Merchant, Collector & Patron
Original research sheds light on the fascinating biography of one of Yale University’s early supporters
Elihu Yale's name is famous for the great educational institution, Yale University, of which he was an early benefactor. He made his fortune in India, mostly through trading in diamonds. Arriving in Madras in 1672, through his outstanding abilities he rose through the hierarchy of the East India Company settlement from clerk to governor. When he returned to London in 1699 he brought with him Indian gems, furniture, and textiles, and proceeded to amass a collection of some ten thousand items, dispersed at seven auction sales after his death in 1721. The catalogs of these sales survive, providing information about the lively London art market. Hitherto neglected by historians, the Yale sales prove to be a landmark in the history both of collecting and of auctioning art in early 18th-century England.
The authors explore Elihu Yale’s life and interests, and then turn to a study of Yale as a dealer (particularly of gems) and a collector of diamonds and jewelry, works of art, furniture, books, and other objects—some of which are now at Yale University, and some in national collections around Britain.140 illustrations