Houghton collections feature extensively in the newest addition to Harvard’s Open Collections Program, Reading: Harvard Views of Readers, Readership, and Reading History, but the items that will be of the most interest to readers of this blog are those pertaining to Hester Thrale Piozzi. The collection includes complete digital versions of five books annotated by Mrs. Piozzi and two manuscript commonplace books.
Mrs. Piozzi’s copies of Boswell’s Life are the most famous of her annotated books. A 1938 Limited Editions Club edition of Boswell’s Life printed Mrs. Piozzi’s annotations as marginal notes. At that time, the 1816 ed. was already at Harvard, as part of the Amy Lowell collection. The 1807 ed., then in the possession of Col. Ralph Isham, would join it 65 years later with the rest of the Hyde Collection.
We recently acquired a copy of Rasselas which Mrs. Piozzi inscribed first to her husband Gabriel, and then to her adopted son Sir John Salusbury Piozzi. But this copy, given to the library by its namesake, Arthur A. Houghton Jr., is even more interesting, since the extensive notes capture Mrs. Piozzi’s reflections on one of Johnson’s best known works.
Here, Mrs. Piozzi annotates her own travel memoir, as well as augmenting it with several additional pages of manuscript material, as a gift to William Augustus Conway.
This handsome, three-volume Bible with ample margins is extensively annotated.
These two manuscript commonplace books are an amazingly rich and dense collection of thoughts, quotations, and personal history. I also have to thank the staff of the Weissman Preservation Center for their amazing and painstaking work on Minced Meat for Pyes, which had been an unusable Frankenstein’s-monster assemblage of pasted-in slips and sewn-together random scraps. Thanks to their work, both the original and this digital facsimile will be accessible to scholars.
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