February 4th, 2016

African American composers and performers: portrait images in sheet music

In honor of Black History Month, here are some pieces from the Historical Sheet Music Collections of 19th and 20th century music celebrating the work of Harry Davis, Bob Cole, J. Rosamond Johnson, Jerry Mills and Lottie Grady.

Images of African American composers and performers in 18th, 19th and early 20th century sheet music were largely negative. Illustrations were often dehumanizing caricatures; with minstrel music and vaudeville tunes, photographs of white performers (or sometime black performers) in blackface were common. Or possibly the elimination of a black composer’s picture completely is the result of the publisher’s views on what will or will not sell. The following publishers chose to present composers and performers of color with respect.



The colored regimental guards
Harry Davis, composer
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February 4th, 2016

Images of the grotesque

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

 Img0056The Gypsy’s first issue was published in London in 1915 and contained short stories, essays, poems, illustrations, sonnets, and prose.  In their foreword the editors of the magazine acknowledged that many people would criticize their endeavor in light of the fact that half of the world was presently at war, but they firmly believed that it was the duty of an artist to express their ideas whenever they occurred.  It appears that The Gypsy only published two issues.

Alan Odle, an English illustrator, contributed a lot of the artwork contained in The Gypsy.  Odle never achieved a great level of fame in his lifetime and is mainly remembered as the husband of Dorothy Richardson, a British author and journalist.  His style is described as a precursor to surrealism with most of his images being quite grotesque as well as subversive.

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Widener has a few volumes in their collection which feature his illustrations including Candide; or, The Optimist by Voltaire.  Published in 1922 you can see that his style is a little cleaner and less intricate then the work he did for the Gypsy though it still clearly contains a sense of the grotesque.

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Odle also contributed his work for a number of James Hanley volumes including this frontispiece for The Last Voyage.  Only 550 copies were printed and signed by the author and this one is no. 12.   Odle’s work on the frontispiece displays a style that leans more heavily towards surrealism.

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To explore more of Odle’s work in publications of The Gypsy, you can find the two issues in Widener’s collection.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager for contributing this post. 

February 1st, 2016

New on OASIS in February

TCS 63 (395)Finding aids for six newly cataloged collections, including playbills from London theaters, costume designs, and samples of the work of photographic studios, have been added to the OASIS database this month:

Processed by: Micah Hoggatt and Susan Pyzynski

Playbills and Programs from London Theaters (TCS 63)

Processed by: Irina Klyagin

Letters to Natasha Trouhanova (MS Thr 1252)

Alec Shanks costume and set designs for music-halls (MS Thr 1285)

Irene Sharaff costume designs (MS Thr 1290)

Processed by: Ashley Nary

Photograph Samples from American, British, and European Photographic Studios (MS Thr 1081)

Processed by: Susan Wyssen

Amilcare Ponchielli letters and musical sketches (MS Thr 1198)

January 31st, 2016

Perhaps Silence Is More Decent: Thomas Merton at 100

January 31st marks the closing of the centenary of Thomas Merton’s birth. Merton is best known for his 1948 autobiography The Seven Story Mountain, which charted his trajectory from world citizen and aspiring literati to cloistered monk at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky. In addition to writing prose and poetry related to spirituality and social concerns, Merton was at the forefront of interfaith dialogue with Eastern religious traditions. He was one of four Americans highlighted by Pope Francis in his address to a joint session of the United States Congress in September of 2015.

Ink on paper drawing titled Jerusalem by Thomas Merton

“Jerusalem.” Ink on paper drawing. bMS Am 2077 (3929a)

Even when limited to the brief time period when Thomas Merton was active, Houghton Library’s collections cover a vast and diverse assemblage of figures, movements, and institutions within the realms of literature, academia, politics, and the arts. In addition to the Modern Books and Manuscripts Department, Houghton houses subject collections in Printing and Graphic Arts, Theatre, and Poetry. Remarkably, Merton is present in each of these collections, speaking to the extent and breadth of his involvement in the world. The reach of his correspondence alone is an Erasmian patchwork of geography and subject that belies the notion of monastics being separate from or indifferent to humanity outside of their cloisters.

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January 28th, 2016

“50 Centuries of Service to Mankind”

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


A History of Pharmacy in Pictures, a depiction of the history of the pharmaceutical profession through oil paintings, was first conceived by pharmacist and journalist George A. Bender before the Second World War. He was inspired be a series of photographs showing the history of surgery produced by Davis & Geck in the 1920s.  Despite this early conception, it would take Bender somewhere around a decade to comprise the series of oil paintings.  In 1947, Bender became editor of Modern Pharmacy, a publication of Parke-Davis & Company, once the oldest and largest pharmaceutical company in America, which was acquired by Pfizer in 2000.  Two years into this position, he was finally granted approval for a project then entitled  “Pictorial Interpretations of Pharmacy Through the Ages.”  Though his original intention was to use the the photographic reenactment technique that Davis & Geck used, Bender eventually hired Robert A. Thom, a painter.  The two worked together for nearly a decade to research the history of pharmacy to create historically accurate paintings.  Thom traveled to Europe in 1953 to visit sites he would depict in person.  Although it took Thom about a month to create each painting, approximately half a year of research went into each of the 40 works of art.  Bender and Thom covered some 250,000 miles in the span of their 8 years of research for the paintings.


The paintings were originally published in Modern Pharmacy, then turned into window displays, and eventually shown in a variety of museums including the Smithsonian, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.  Pharmacists bought prints of the paintings for display in their establishments.  Although the paintings begin “before the dawn of history,” and cover medical practices in Babylon, Egypt, China, Persia, and Europe, the focus of most paintings lies with pharmaceutical developments in the United States.  This pamphlet contains all 40 paintings in black and white, along with paragraph descriptions of the time period and practices they portray.

Click here learn more about the development of this project, along with its portrayal of the pharmaceutical profession in the United States.  To see the paintings in color, please see a presentation by the College of Pharmacy at Washington State University here.

To learn more, A History of Pharmacy in Pictures can be found in Countway’s collection: Detroit, Michigan: Parke, Davis & Company, 1960.

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

January 28th, 2016

Driven bananas by popular songs

Have you ever had an “earworm”, a song stuck in your head? From the Historical Sheet Music Collections, here are some funny takes on show business’ response to the omnipresent songs of the day. The Merry Widow was a popular operetta composed by Franz Lehár, and in 1907 the public’s craze for the music, especially “The Merry Widow Waltz,” apparently captivated some (there was a film, The Merry Widow Waltz Craze) but aggravated other folks – and the aggrieved response was swift:



I’m looking for the man that wrote “the Merry Widow Waltz”
Seymour Furth, music, and Edgar Selden, lyrics

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January 25th, 2016

Jean-Claude Touche: unknown hero

Many have been the excited blogs I’ve written over the years, highlighting a find in the Ward Collection. It is often difficult to restrain myself from writing about something once a day, given the riches hiding in every box. But sometimes, the discoveries are rather sad, and I thought twice about highlighting this particular score. But its creator’s story deserves to be remembered. Jean-Claude Touche was a gifted musician, born into a musical family. He entered the Paris Conservatory, where he took harmony classes with Maurice Duruflé and organ with Marcel Dupré. He took a Premier Prix d’orgue in 1944, and was considered to be a great talent.

MS Thr 1297 title page

MS Thr 1297 title page

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January 25th, 2016

“You seem as dull as… a Yale man”

2015T-37 (36)In April of 1892, Harvard sophomore George Doane Wells along with fellow members of the D.K.E. or “Dickey” Theatricals, wrote and produced an original comedic opera, Antony and Cleopatra, or, The Sinner, the Siren, and the Snake. The Dickey Theatricals were part of the Institute of 1770, a social club for Harvard sophomores which eventually merged with the Hasty Pudding Club in 1924. The Dickeys’ burlesque vision of Antony and Cleopatra borrowed from Shakespeare’s play as well as Victorien Sardou’s 1890 opera. It is an exemplary specimen of 19th-century college humor. The obscure in-jokes are there, along with familiar and perennial undergraduate gripes over curfew hours and the Harvard-Yale football rivalry.

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January 21st, 2016

Home grown

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


Touted as Europe’s first dope magazine, Home Grown’s first publication was in 1977 and presented an “enlightened and informative, as well as entertaining, attitude to dope and related subjects – views and approaches not expressed by the popular press and other media.”  The content of the magazine ranges from articles about drug legalization and arrests, poetry, comics, stories, photographs, book reviews, articles about growing pot, and much more, but what fascinates me the most are the advertisements found in the pages.

Img0054 Img0056  Portobello Road in London was apparently the place to purchase “Clothes to get high in!”  Curious to know whether the shop still exists today I found a blog that revealed that the area around Portobello was quite famous for record shops.  The Hindukush shop which sold Indian textiles was apparently open until 1988 when it became Vinyl Solution, a secondhand record store.  The variety of headshops that are represented is also quite interesting.  You have more esoteric ads, space-age ads, and of course who can resist a smoking leprechaun? Tokin’ & Tootin’ indeed!

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You can find images of the covers of the first ten issues in Hollis.  Home grown : Europe’s first dope magazine. London, England : Alchemy Publications, 1977-, is part of Widener’s collection.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, for contributing this post.

January 20th, 2016

Historical sheet music collections: The many faces of “Hawaiian Butterfly”


Sheet music was often marketed by association with popular vaudeville, Broadway or movie stars. This tune from 1917, Hawaiian Butterfly, was published by Leopold Feist with at least eleven different vaudeville stars and teams pictured in the cover inset. The graphics and text are the same, as is the publisher’s plate number, but the inset cover portraits and the ads on the rear cover differ. This is often the case with sheet music; the cover art, performer portraits and publisher’s advertisements (including specimen and incipit scores on the title page versos and rear covers) can vary from copy to copy of a popular song, a window into the music and show business trends of the period.

Here are six examples from Houghton’s collection:
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