July 22nd, 2016

Undergraduates at Houghton, Part II: Material Evidence in Incunabula

A number of Houghton Library incunables—books printed using moveable type before 1501—were donated between 1955 and 1965 by Ward M. Canaday, member of the Harvard College class of 1907.  Several of those books were deposited in Houghton by Adriana R. Salem before being purchased by Canaday; Cambridge had been the end-point of Salem’s trans-Atlantic journey from France (Walsh 5: 43).  Salem’s father was Federico Gentili di Giuseppe (Walsh 5: 43), whose name is more commonly associated with the restitution of paintings held by the Louvre Museum to his heirs in 1999 (Parisot 265).

Inc 3380.10_booklabels
Booklplates of Adriana R. Salem and Harvard College Library from Inc 3380.10

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July 14th, 2016

Psychic TV

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items recently cataloged from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.



On Easter Sunday in 1984, English experimental video art and music group Psychic TV conducted a performance at the Massachusetts College of Art. Physic TV members Genesis P-Orridge and John Gosling were interviewed after this performance, an interview in which they were questioned about the various influences for their art, which included a focus on occultism, serial killers, and bondage, and body modification/mutilation. The performance in Boston included “a tape loop of Aleister Crowley chanting to evoke demons,” backing video featuring PTV members having their genitalia pierced, and “other assorted bondage and discipline films,” along with footage of Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and Roman Polanski. It was paired with a sister event in Reykjavik, Iceland on Good Friday, and Physic TV members hoped that there would be a noted “psychick” influence between the two.



Genesis P-Orridge would continue Psychic TV through the present day, with some breaks in-between. Born in Manchester, Genesis founded the music and performance collective COUM Transmissions in 1969, which evolved into industrial band Throbbing Gristle in 1976. As with the Psychic TV performance previously described, Throbbing Gristle used disturbing and controversial imagery in their performances, including photographs of Nazi concentration camps. Their hope to provoke the audience into extracting themselves from the mainstream and thinking individually earned them an association with the rising anarchist punk scene. Throbbing Gristle disbanded in 1981, with Genesis P-Orridge and Peter Christopherson moving on to form Psychic TV. It has since had two revivals, from 2004-2010, and from 2011 to the present day.


The pamphlet pictured here includes the transcription of the post-Massachusetts College of Art Easter Sunday performance interview with Genesis P-Orridge and John Gosling, in which the pair discuss their goals for their performance group, the often controversial influences upon their art, and the way the English government has attempted to silence dissenting voices. Accompanying the pamphlet is an audio cassette tape containing audio from the interview.


To learn more about Physic TV and Genesis P-Orridge’s other projects, visit their website here. The Psychic TV interview pamphlet and accompanying audio cassette can be found in Widener’s collection: Boston: John Ze’Wizz, 1984.

Thanks to Irina Rogova, Santo Domingo Library Assistant, for contributing this post.

July 11th, 2016

Undergraduates at Houghton, Part I: Consolidating Works on Manuscripts

This coming fall will see the opening of Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections, an exhibition of medieval and Renaissance books from local institutions.  The Houghton Library will loan the vast majority of the manuscripts on display, and the library will also act as one of three venues for the exhibition.  Preparations are not limited to the objects themselves, but also include the compiling of bibliographic resources.  Bibliographies for each manuscript feature articles that scholars, researchers, and cataloguers have produced after having cited, described, or partially reproduced Houghton’s manuscripts.

beyond-words-Houghton Keep reading →

July 10th, 2016

Eccles Cakes from the Archives

MARY HYDE ECCLES, 1912-2003. Recipe for Eccles cakes (undated). MS Hyde 98 (286) - Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, 2003.

MARY HYDE ECCLES, 1912-2003. Recipe for Eccles cakes (undated). MS Hyde 98 (286) – Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, 2003.

Last December, in the first of a series of we’re now calling “Cakes from the Collection,” we made Emily Dickinson’s 20 pound black cake. Recently, Team Cake gathered again to produce the second in our series, a very different challenge in the form of delicately crisp Eccles Cakes. Our friends in England will not require any instruction on the nature of Eccles cake, but those reading from elsewhere in the world may be unfamiliar with the treat named for the English town in which they were first sold commercially at the end of the 1700s. The currant-filled buttery pastries are not necessarily immediately recognizable as cakes. Indeed, a colleague leaving early from the party at which we served our Eccles cakes lamented that she would be “missing the cakes.” Assured that the table was in fact currently full of Eccles cakes she could only nod and “oh.” While not much on offer in our neck of the woods, the cakes are still quite popular today in England, though the recipe has certainly changed over the years, as we discovered by working backwards from our source: a neatly penned 20th century index card recipe from the Mary Hyde Eccles papers.

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July 8th, 2016

Cakes from the Collections and another birthday

Today at Houghton, July 8, we celebrated the birthday of our beloved patron Mary Hyde Eccles (1912-2003) with cake and a song. The cake, Eccles cakes to be specific, were spiced currant puff pastries, made (sort of) according to Mary’s own recipe (see here for more details on them!), which is housed here at Houghton in her papers.

Mary Hyde Eccles

KAI KIN YUNG, fl. 1961-1998 Portrait of Mary Hyde Eccles at her desk at Four Oaks Farm (1983) MS Hyde 98 (2866) – Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, 2003

The song, for countertenor and viola da gamba, performed live by our Public Services colleagues James Capobianco and Emily Walhout, was a birthday song for Mary. Admittedly, the song was originally for Queen Mary II of England, but the text seemed perfectly suited to this occasion, despite the fact that it was composed more than 300 years ago by Henry Purcell:

“Strike the viol, touch the lute,

Wake the Harp, inspire the Flute.

Sing your Patronesse’s praise

Sing in cheerfull and Harmonious Lays.”


HENRY PURCELL, 1659-1695 Orpheus Britannicus (London: Printed by William Pearson, 1702-06) The song “Strike the viol” originally appeared as one of nine pieces in Come, Ye Sons of Art, a musical ode written by Purcell in 1694 for the birthday of Queen Mary II of England. *2005TW-948 – Gift of John Milton and Ruth Neils Ward, 2005

In 2003, Mary Hyde, Viscountess Eccles bequeathed to Harvard a gift of tremendous generosity, including a world-class collection of 18th century English literature, the family papers that document a lifetime of collecting, and a substantial endowment to permit Houghton to catalog, preserve, utilize, and add to the collection. This gift was the culmination of decades of generosity toward Houghton by Mary, her first husband Donald Hyde, and her second husband the Viscount Eccles.

Houghton is supported entirely by endowed funds. We literally could not open our doors every morning, nor would we have any reason to, without the generosity of donors like Mary Hyde. After the Harvard College Library was destroyed by fire in 1764, donors from throughout the colonies and Europe gave the books that rebuilt the library. They have been our indispensable partners in the work that we do ever since. Harvard is grateful, Houghton is grateful, we are all grateful.

Happy Birthday Mary Hyde, and thank you to all our donors.

July 5th, 2016

Babar Comes to Houghton Library

Babar HoughtonHoughton Library is pleased to announce two important new acquisitions associated with the iconic children’s book character Babar the elephant.

The first of these, thanks to a generous gift from Laurent de Brunhoff and his wife Phyllis Rose, is the complete archive of preparatory materials for the book ABC de Babar by Jean de Brunhoff, Laurent’s father.

MS Typ 1186 cover Jean de Brunhoff, original cover design (not used) for ABC de Babar, ink and gouache on paper (Houghton Library, MS Typ 1186)

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July 2nd, 2016

Shining a spotlight on Hidden Collections

Dana Finishes 20160602

At “hands in the air” in the style of MasterChef at the end of her own arduous MasterSurvey, Dana Gee marks the finish of our own six-month endurance test.

Our Hidden Collections Grant to explore strange new worlds of backlog, to seek out new sheet music, to boldly go where no one has gone before, officially came to an end on June 3. While the grant was not fully funded, I’m pleased to announce that during the survey we were able to locate and accession almost 60,000 scores on-site in Houghton and the Theatre Collection, as well as add access to many other already-accessioned collections.

By the side of the Zuyder Zee Keep reading →

July 1st, 2016

William King Richardson, Part III: Mischievous Billy Richardson

It is good to see good work being done by colleagues on a great collection.  But let’s not be too solemn about the collector and the collected, no matter his degrees and trophies.  After all, he wasn’t. “Billy” traveled in certain social circles and had a lot of fun in doing so.  Edith Wharton, the important American novelist and an authority on interior decoration across all periods, was part of his world.  In fact, WKR is the source (take that word as you will) of an amusing anecdote about EW, one that makes us like them both the more.

From R.W.B. Lewis’s Edith Wharton: A Biography (1975), p. 148:

And [among frequent guests to EW’s palatial summer “cottage” in the Berkshires, The Mount] there was William King (“Billy”) Richardson, a Boston lawyer specializing in patents and trademarks; something of a dandy, with a handlebar moustache and deep mournful eyes. Though he was well traveled, his literary qualifications were nonexistent; but his appeal to Edith is suggested by one of the apocryphal stories he mischievously spread about her.  An opulent woman in the Berkshires neighborhood, while showing Edith through her house, remarked at one point (so Richardson claimed):  “And this I call my Louis Quinze room.”  To this Edith, staring about through her lorgnette, replied, “Why, my dear?”

Our Billy collected more than books and manuscripts, and he was the cause of collecting in others.  Visit the Dutch Collection at the MFA and see two full-length portraits by Rembrandt of Rev. and Mrs. Seven deTeenth Century Gotbux.  The modest, almost miniature, labels beside them tell us, “William King Richardson Fund.”


Dennis C. Marnon, Administrative Officer, contributed this post. It is the third in a series on William King Richardson. For earlier posts, click on the “Early” category below.

June 30th, 2016

Poster Swank

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items recently cataloged from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.



For some 40 years, Poster Auctions International has been holding auctions at Rennert’s Gallery in New York City for their collection of rare vintage posters. This collection spans art noveau, art deco, and modern pieces of poster art. Each auction is accompanied by a beautifully crafted auction book, with a hardbound cover and glossy color pages featuring images and details about available posters.



Poster collecting emerged as a popular and expensive endeavor sometime in the 1960s and 1970s, with focus being placed on the work of a handful of 19th century French artists such as Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, and Jules Cheret. As the market and demand for posters has expanded, new collector categories have developed: Mid-Century Modern reflected in post-WWII designs, war propaganda posters from the first half of the 20th century, and travel posters from around the world. Along with those in the Art Nouveau style, war propaganda posters are particularly popular. During the First World War, the United States produced some 2,500 poster designs, with 20 million posters printed, in the span of two years. The power of the poster was recognized and reimagined by the Bolsheviks, and became a staple of war efforts around the world. Other poster styles evolved throughout the 20th century, including Art Deco influenced by the sleek aesthetic of the jazz age, the ‘50s Style using whimsicle design to appeal to broad audiences, and International Typographic Style (or Swiss Style) which was highly structured, orderly, and corporate. Read more about the history of the poster here.



Many of the posters crafted between 1880 and 1930 were printed through a method called lithography, which was replaced by photo offset and silkscreen processes after the Second World War. Printing processes can account for the value of certain posters, along with their connection to the original artist, the popularity of said artist, the subject depicted, along with the rarity and condition of the poster itself. The auctions held by Poster Auctions International include posters from nearly all of the eras discussed here. The auction and Rennert’s Gallery are a staple of New York City, demonstrated by an auction they held two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks where proceeds went to benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.


To learn more, poster catalogs published by Poster Auctions International can be found in the Fine Arts Library collection.

Thanks to Irina Rogova, Santo Domingo Library Assistant, for contributing this post.

June 24th, 2016

Son of The heroism of King George

It has already been a busy summer. I had the great good fortune last week to take another Rare Book School course, The Stationers’ Company to 1775, taught by the extraordinary Ian Gadd. Now, you may ask, what the heck is The Stationers’ Company? Basically, it is what today we would call a guild, which oversaw the book trade from the beginnings of printing in London. Among other fascinating archives, the Company kept a “Register” of most books (and some music) printed, entering the date and identifying the alleged “copy” [copyright or privilege] holder.

This is all very well I hear you cry, but what does this have to do with The heroism of King George? As part of my research project, I read through the entire Register microfilm from 1799 to 1804, just to get a flavor of what kind of music might be entered there, if any. Imagine my surprise when I ran across this entry.

Sheridan Stationers Company entry Keep reading →

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