Ruth Samson Luborsky Summered in Chilmark
Ruth Samson Luborsky, longtime summer resident of Martha's Vineyard, died on August 28 in Philadelphia shortly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was 77 years old.
Born in Philadelphia, Ruth attended Olney High School and the University of Chicago. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas when her family was living in Topeka. In 1977 she received her doctorate jointly in English literature from Temple University and in renaissance art history from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1944 she married Lester Luborsky, who became professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. They began to vacation on the Island in 1947. In 1965 they bought and restored an old Vineyard house in Chilmark off Quitsa Lane. They and their three children, Lise, Ellen, and Peter, and eventually their four grandchildren, became regular summer residents.
Ruth Luborsky was an independent scholar whose interests ranged from Renaissance English art and literature to fashion history and theory. Her major work, A Guide to English Illustrated Books 1536-1603, was published in 1999 after 14 years of work. She always brought her work to the Vineyard, including cartons of photocopied woodcuts. The guide is a complete survey of pictorial material in Tudor books of its period, describing each image in its first use, every subsequent use, and its context. The work allows access for the first time to the practices of the printers who created these books. It is found in all major research libraries and is a valued resource for scholars.
The second volume of the two-volume work contains 186 selected woodcuts. One of her favorite images was from an early how-to book showing how to cut your toenails while swimming.
By 1980 she had entered the field which was to occupy much of her professional career with the publication of The Allusive Presentation of The Shepheardes Calender in Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual. She lectured widely in the United States as well as at Oxford, on topics such as The Elizabethans: What Did They Wear If They Weren't Upper Class? She had more than 13 publications to her credit, including articles on Spenser studies, the dynamics of fashion change and the relation between Elizabethan culture and the pictorial image.
Ruth delighted in serving her family fresh Vineyard produce, the peaches from the "dell" behind the house and the fish from Menemsha - all from the vantage point of her kitchen with a sweeping view of Chilmark waters. She loved the Vineyard passionately and especially valued its civility and neighborliness. She treasured its tranquility and loved to see the view of Quitsa and Menemsha ponds over her coffee. She made sure that the bird bath was filled with fresh water every morning. She was an active supporter of the Vineyard Conservation Society and its work for natural preservation of the Island. She also loved and supported the Chilmark Public Library.
Ruth is survived by her husband, Lester Luborsky; her children, Lise, Ellen of Manhattan and Peter of Kimberton, Pa., and her grandchildren, Miranda Outman-Kramer, Alexander Outman and David and Marie Luborsky.
A memorial service was held on August 30 in Philadelphia. The family suggests that donations in her honor may be made to the Chilmark Public Library or the Vineyard Conservation Society.