Tucked among countless other books in the Special Collections stacks of rare books lies a rather unassuming looking text. It is green, with a lone tree pictured in the center of the cover and a grapevine frame going around, with the title, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, spelled out in gold lettering. Yet this rather plain looking book contains accounts of a childhood spent farming, exploring the wilderness of Scotland, and designing and producing numerous fascinating inventions.
While his family was busy with operating the Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Norfolk-born Alexander Galt, Jr. (1827-1863) possessed artistic aspirations. His main ambition was to become a first-rate sculptor—and indeed he completed several sculptures in his brief life of 36 years—yet Galt’s sketchbook, housed in the Special Collections archives, is a testament to his mastery of drawing not only portraits and the human form, but also animals, architecture, and landscapes. In 1860, Alexander took the sketchbook with him on a trip to Florence, Italy to study sculpting, and in it he produced numerous beautifully detailed pencil drawings of men, women and children, many whom he names. A detailed sketch of a sitter’s hair falling above her ear reveals Galt’s careful attention to the most intricate curves and details of his subject.