Settlement reached in Rosenbach's Maurice Sendak lawsuit

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Author and Illustrator Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) stands with a character from his book "Where the Wild Things Are." His estate has settled a long-running lawsuit with the Rosenbach Museum and Library.

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia's lawsuit against the estate of Maurice Sendak has been settled out of court, the two parties announced Monday. No details of the deal were divulged in a brief statement provided by Rosenbach director Derick Dreher.

“The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Estate of Maurice Sendak, and the Maurice Sendak Foundation are pleased to announce that they have resolved all remaining differences between them that had been the subject of litigation in the Probate Court for the Northern District of Fairfield County, Connecticut.”

The terms of the settlement are confidential, said Dreher and a lawyer for the Rosenbach, which is part of the Free Library of Philadelphia. A lawyer for the Sendak side said the settlement was reached Wednesday, but declined to further comment.

A total of about 800 rare books from a wide array of time periods and authors were in dispute, and during two years of litigation many of the contested books were divided up. Most recently, in an Oct. 25 decision, Northern Fairfield County Probate Court Judge Joseph A. Egan Jr. awarded 252 of the rare books to the Sendak estate, and 88 to the Rosenbach.

But Egan ruled that two of the most valuable works – William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience – should go to the Sendak estate. The two items are believed to be worth millions, the Rosenbach said in court filings.

Over the summer, about 155 titles, including volumes by Beatrix Potter, were awarded to the Rosenbach.

Representatives of the Rosenbach museum and library have not responded to requests from The Inquirer for a final accounting of which books are going to which institution.

Not in dispute were any of the original materials created by Sendak himself that became closely identified with the Rosenbach over more than four decades. Those 10,000 items were transferred to the Sendak Foundation from the Rosenbach in 2014.