by Rebecca Hopman

The Rakow Research Library’s current exhibition, Curious and Curiouser: Surprising Finds from the Rakow Library, explores themes of surprise, curiosity, and inspiration in the library. One of our main goals for the exhibition was to show the many ways the Rakow Library has been used as an incubator, and to inspire visitors to see it as a place they can be creative.

Many people who visit the Library expect to find scholarly and technical information, but few realize that we also have a fiction collection. Because our mission is to collect comprehensively on the subject of glass, we include fiction that deals with glass and glassmaking. You can find books like Glassigator by Dan and Allison Dailey, Shadows in the Glasshouse by Megan McDonald, and The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier among many others on our shelves.

We even have several romance novels, including The Glassmakers Saga. Written by Donna Baker (a penname for British romance novelist Lilian Harry), this trilogy follows the lives and loves of the Henzel family of glassmakers.

Baker first decided to write about glassmakers when she saw the “glowing red-hot furnaces” of the Stuart Crystal glasshouse in Stourbridge, England. “The sight was so dramatic that it immediately caught my imagination,” she recalls. She went back to that glasshouse several times to see the glassblowers at work, and spent much of her time going through primary sources like 19th-century trade journals to set the scene for her stories.

Crystal and Black Cameo, the first two books in the series, take place in Europe, but Chalice, the final book, brings the Henzels across the Atlantic to Corning, NY. Known as the Crystal City for its high production of American Brilliant Cut Glass, Corning became home to many early 20th-century immigrants talented in cutting and engraving glass.

Baker traveled to Corning to familiarize herself with the town and its rich history of glassmaking. She “walked the streets for miles, traced the route of the Monkey Run* and visualised the effects of the great flood of 1872.” She spent time in The Corning Museum of Glass and spoke with a local historian. And, of course, she spent time researching local glass industry history at the Rakow Library. Baker used many resources at the Library, including histories of Corning cut glass firms, biographies of local glassmakers, and historical sketches of the town and county.

You could say that Corning, its residents, and the Rakow Library served as one big incubator for Baker’s work. She would certainly agree – “All of this informed and inspired my own work and, I hope, resulted in a book which even the residents of Corning could enjoy!”

Laura and Erinn were super excited to discover the series when they visited the Museum in 2015

Curious? Learn more about the exhibition by reading the monthly posts published on the CMoG blog and the LAIP blog, and follow us on social media at @corningmuseum.

*Monkey Run is a conduit for rainwater that was built to prevent flooding of the town and glass factories.


This post is shared here with permission from the CMOG and the Rakow Research Library. 


profilepic_hopmanRebecca Hopman is the Outreach Librarian at The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass. She has worked in a number of libraries and archives since 2005 and received her MLS from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012. When she’s not at the library, you might find her embroidering, writing snail mail, or cheering on the Chicago Cubs. Follow her on

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