By Gregory Wynn
In his recently published memoir, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Robert Caro recounts that an early career admonishment from an editor to “turn every page” while investigating a story was one of the best pieces of advice he had ever been given (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, 2019, p. 11). This call to thoroughness and detail served as a guidepost for him while conducting research for his epic biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson. The thrill of discovering an overlooked or misfiled source that allows a writer to connect the dots is one of the great personal and professional rewards of archival research. However, even sage advice as “turn every page” is only so sage if all the pages are there to turn. We can’t know what isn’t there.
So, when an opportunity comes along to add more pages to a historical archive it is a terrific contribution to scholarship. Harvard has made just such a contribution with the addition of ten handwritten letters from Theodore Roosevelt to his sister Anna Roosevelt Cowles—nicknamed Bamie—to the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Houghton Library. These letters have never been published, nor utilized by researchers and scholars. It’s worth noting that Theodore Roosevelt does not have a presidential library. Outside of his papers at the Library of Congress, Harvard—Roosevelt’s alma mater—holds the most significant collection of Theodore Roosevelt material in the world. This includes the Anna Roosevelt Cowles papers (TRC b MS Am 1834.1), which this addition makes as complete as perhaps they may ever be.
By Christine E. Jacobson, Assistant Curator, Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library
Houghton recently acquired a nineteenth-century bilingual manuscript of Ukrainian and Russian folk songs and verse. At first glance, the work seems unremarkable. At 370 pages, it contains over 120 poems and songs, including well-known works by Alexander Pushkin and Taras Shevchenko as well as many popular songs from the period. Certain details, however, render the object extraordinary. The author of the manuscript copied these verses in a flawless and painstaking stylized script; he also provided page numbers, a table of contents, and title pages complete with dates and place of production. Who would go to such trouble over these common verses and why?
Sbornyk ukrainskykh pisenʹ y stykhov … sbornik russkikh pi͡esenʹ i stikhov, 1875-1880, MS Slavic 26. Houghton Library, Harvard University. Purchased with the Bayard L. Kilgour, Jr. Fund for Russian Belles-Lettres and the FHCL Ukrainian National Home of Lorain Ohio Book Fund.
This post is a condensed version of an essay from the catalogue of Houghton Library’s most recent exhibition, Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty, which is on view from April 29 – August 3, 2019. Follow us on Instagram, where we will feature images from the exhibition every Monday during its run.
In 1969, 600 million people watched Commander Neil Armstrong descend the lunar module Eagle’s ladder, stand on the moon, and remark, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong’s achievement was the culmination of a series of small steps and giant leaps in human understanding and innovation, advances driven by the curiosity and wonder of countless generations who had looked up at the heavens.
From left to right: Luke Kelly (Harvard College ’19), Khin-Kyemon Aung (HMS/HBS ’20), and Angela Wheeler (GSD).
On April 5, 2019, three Harvard students were named winners of the Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art. The Hofer Prize was established by Melvin R. Seiden, A.B. ’52, L.L.B. ’55, to encourage student interest in collecting. It is awarded annually to a student or students whose collections of books or works of art best reflect the traditions of breadth, coherence, and imagination exemplified by Philip Hofer, A.B.’21, L.H.D. ’67. Hofer was the founder and first curator of the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts at Houghton Library and secretary of the Fogg Art Museum.
This year, Angela Wheeler, a second-year student in the Graduate School of Design, and Luke Kelly, Harvard College Class of ’19, were co-awarded first prizes of $3,000 each. Khin-Kyemon Aung, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School ’20, was awarded second prize of $1,500.
By Michael Austin, Manuscript Cataloger, Houghton Library
In my first post on Houghton Library’s holdings from the Castañé collection of documents and objects relating to European conflicts of the 20th century, I focused on two particularly poignant items: a ration card issued to a young Polish girl early in the Second World War and an armband worn by a “Kapo” at an unspecified Nazi concentration camp.
In this second post, I’ll be examining another category of material strongly represented in the collection: photograph albums created by military personnel in the field.