November 29th, 2018

Collections Now Available for Research: November

Houghton Library is pleased to announce the following collections are now described online and accessible in the reading room.

Moll Flanders Memorial Collection of Trade Cards of Enterprising London Businesswomen, circa 1980-2018 (MS Eng 1801) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Collection of Marbled Papers, circa 1945-2005 (52L-1152) – processed by Melanie Wisner

Hermann Hagedorn Papers, 1917-1960 (MS Am 2995) – processed by Adrien Hilton

George Hamlin and Joanne Capen Hamlin Papers, circa 1940-1986 (MS Thr 1866) – processed by Magee Lawhorn

Harvard Theatre Collection Playbills and Programs from Theaters in the United States (TCS 68) – processed by Betts Coup

Maria St. Just Collection of Tennessee Williams Papers, 1947-1984 (MS Thr 1856) – processed by Ashley Nary

Hugh L. Robinson and Olga Olsen Robinson Missionary Papers, 1925-1944 (MS Am 2754) – processed by Magee Lawhorn

Hannah Trowbridge Whitcomb Correspondence and Other Papers, 1841-1936 (ABC 76 Whitcomb) – processed by Adrien Hilton

November 19th, 2018

An Intimate and Symbolic Bond: Quentin Roosevelt, the Great War, and American-French Relations

By Vincent Harmsen, 2017–2018 Houghton Library Visiting Fellow and recipient of the William Dearborn Fellowship in American History. Mr. Harmsen holds a master’s degree in history from the Sorbonne University, Paris.

Quentin Roosevelt in France, 1918. Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.

November 19, 1918 would have been the twenty-first birthday of Quentin Roosevelt, son of Theodore Roosevelt. However, Quentin had died in France a few months before while serving as a fighter pilot against the Germans during World War One. His mother, Edith Roosevelt, remained silent in her private diary until October 31, stunned by the news of her son’s death. The birthday celebration his family had planned became a ceremony of remembrance and sorrow.

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November 15th, 2018

Born-Digital Blog Post #7: Accessioning Workflow part 2

This post continues the series, “Behind the Scenes at Houghton,” giving a glimpse into the inner workings of the library’s mission to support teaching and research. Thanks to Magdaline Lawhorn, Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Resident & Project Archivist, for contributing this post.

In Born-Digital Blog Post #6 we began to discuss the five basic elements we capture during our born-digital accessioning process: identification; media type; storage size; visual representation of the physical media; and removal/segregation of materials. This blog post will continue the discussion, focusing on the last two elements: visual representation and removal/segregation of materials.

To capture the visual representation of the materials we photograph the media. We mainly use the Solo8 HoverCam to take photographs from above. Within the born-digital community taking photographs is often debated; some consider it a useless step because the physical item is not as important as the content. Photographing is certainly an optional step, and its importance needs to be determined by the individual repository. For Houghton these images allow us to document any information written on the physical media (by the creator), adding another layer of authenticity. What appears on the media is informative and might prove useful when it comes to describing the materials in a future resource record such as a finding aid, the document that broadly describes what is in a collection. Keep reading →

November 6th, 2018

What’s in a Photograph? A Photograph by Any Other Name is Still a Photograph

By Lillianne Keaney, Horblit Project Cataloger, Houghton Library

The term “photograph” is actually quite broad. It encompasses black and white photographs (gelatin silver prints), chromogenic color prints, albumen prints, carbon prints, collodion prints, salted paper prints, digital photographs, palladium prints, daguerreotypes, and many others that are produced using different photographic processes (check out Graphics Atlas for more information on processes).

Just how important are the distinctions between the types of images? After all, a photograph is a photograph, right? While subjects can span the different processes, the proper identification of the type of photograph is important in the care and description of these images.

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October 31st, 2018

Collections Now Available for Research: September & October, 2018

Houghton Library is pleased to announce the following collections are now described online and accessible in the reading room.

Ruthanna Boris Papers, 1929-2003 (MS Thr 1850) – processed by Adrien Hilton

Collection of French Booksellers’ Catalogs and Prospectuses circa 1769-1799 (MS Fr 693) – processed by Magee Lawhorn

Harvard Theatre Collection Photographic Postcards of Groups and Scenes (TCS 15) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection Photographic Postcards of Theaters in the United States (TCS 16) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection Photographic Postcards of Foreign Theaters (TCS 17) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection Cartes-de-visite Photographs of Men in Popular Entertainment (TCS 20) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection Cartes-de-visite Photographs of Women in Popular Entertainment (TCS 21) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

Harvard Theatre Collection French and Italian Cartes-de-visite Theatrical Portrait Photographs (TCS 22) – processed by Sarah Mirseyedi

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October 27th, 2018

r.ed in residence

By Dale Stinchcomb, Assistant Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection

Frankenweek is in full swing and Houghton is participating in a Harvard-wide celebration of all things Franken-Shelley. A film series, an exhibition, and a marathon reading are just a few of the activities planned to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley’s influence is felt in other corners of the library as well. A recently acquired graphic novel by visual artist Angela Lorenz, currently on exhibit in the Keats Room, follows r.ed monde, an amorphous humanoid with a pointy head, on a journey of self-discovery.

r.ed engender.ed: a conical chronicle by Angela Lorenz

r.ed engender.ed: a conical chronicle by Angela Lorenz, 2016. 2018H-64. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

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October 23rd, 2018

Opening the Drawers of the Harvard Theatre Collection

This post, by Project Archivist Betts Coup, continues the series “Behind the Scenes at Houghton,” giving a glimpse into the inner workings of the library’s mission to support teaching and research.

When processing a collection, the ultimate goal is to make the materials discoverable by researchers and easily accessible by library staff. When I started working at Houghton Library in February, I began a project to improve accessibility to materials in the Harvard Theatre Collection’s flat file cabinets. While these materials are often oversized and unwieldy, they are also special. For example, a group of seventeenth-century works I processed called the Daniel Rabel ballet drawings (MS Thr 1775) are some of the oldest and most rare in the Collection.

To give readers a sense of the scope of the project: there are seven rows of large flat file cases—which we call case ranges—nearly full of oversized materials. This is 980 drawers! Some of the materials form parts of collections that have already been processed but which had not been included in the finding aids.

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October 11th, 2018

Looking Beyond the Text in Frances Wolfreston’s Books

By Sarah Lindenbaum

In the introduction of Marks in Books, Roger Stoddard’s catalogue of his 1984 exhibit on marginalia and other book traces, he writes, “As anthropologists have discovered, traces of wear can tell us how artifacts were used by human beings. Books no less than tools, apparel, and habits can show signs of wear, but their markings can be far more eloquent of manufacturing processes, specific of provenance, telling of human relations, and suggestive of human thought.”

Frances Middlemore Wolfreston (1607–1677) was a gentrywoman and lifelong native of the English Midlands whose private library of hundreds of volumes was broken up at various intervals during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Her books drifted to libraries as far-flung as New Zealand, Denmark, and even Normal, Illinois, which is where I found her copy of Lady Mary Wroth’s romance The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania (1621).

The most well-known en masse drift of her books occurred on May 24th, 1856, when Sotheby and Wilkinson auctioned a substantial portion of the Wolferstan family library.[1] Since locating Urania in 2013, I have been using this auction catalog to track down more of Wolfreston’s  books, which frequently indicate, through “signs of wear” (to borrow Stoddard’s phrase), how she used them, where they came from, and what she thought of them.

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October 3rd, 2018

Translated for Action: Gabriel Harvey’s Grammar-Drama

This post was written by Andrew S. Keener, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Santa Clara University. A recipient of the Katharine F. Pantzer Jr. Fellowship in Descriptive Bibliography, Keener was a 2016–2017 Houghton Library Visiting Fellow.

The sixteenth-century scholar Gabriel Harvey has fascinated researchers of early modern reading and handwriting for decades, but an investigation of several of his books at three libraries offers a fresh picture of his vernacular language study, and how it involved drama. Caroline Bourland published an essay on this topic in 1940, identifying a number of language manuals that once belonged to Harvey and which he annotated copiously with an array of marks and his characteristic autograph. Held today at the Huntington Library, these printed guides to French, Spanish, and Italian have received recent attention in interesting essays by Joyce Boro and Warren Boutcher, and alongside Harvey’s copy of John Florio’s Firste Fruites, too.

However, one of these language-learning publications, a translated Italian grammar printed in 1575 by the French Huguenot refugee Thomas Vautrollier, is distinct in that Harvey grouped it with several Continental dramatic publications. If we imaginatively reassemble this sammelband (a volume of multiple, bound-together titles), as András Kiséry has, it attests not only to this very particular reader’s interest in exemplary conversation, but also to a project in language learning.

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August 31st, 2018

Summer Spotlight: John Wilkes Booth and the Theatre of Our Discontent

Not all the objects in Houghton Library’s collections have such illustrious, proud histories as a Shakespeare First Folio or Gutenberg Bible.  Objects of less reputable association can provide just as striking of an encounter as these treasured relics, however. During the behind-the-scenes tour of Houghton on my first day of work at the library, I encountered one such item in the Harvard Theatre Collection: an actor’s promptbook of Richard III, belonging to one John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Abraham Lincoln.

Promptbook inscribed by Booth

Fly-leaf inscribed by John Wilkes Booth. ‘Shakespeare’s historical tragedy of Richard III: Adapted to representation by Colley Cibber,..’ (New York: Samuel French, [between 1857 and 1862]) pp. 16-17. TS Promptbook Sh154.322. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Promptbook interior with annotations by Booth

Promptbooks like this allowed actors to note specific stage directions and performance minutiae alongside the text itself. ‘Shakespeare’s historical tragedy of Richard III : Adapted to representation by Colley Cibber,..’ (New York: Samuel French, [between 1857 and 1862]), pp. 16-17. TS Promptbook Sh154.322. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

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