October 20th, 2016

Don’t Eat That Mushroom!

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

Mushrooms- they are cheap and legal, but how do you ensure that you don’t eat the wrong one?  Hallucinogenic Mushrooms contains information on identification, buying and eating mushrooms, different species, current laws, as well as poisonous mushrooms in Britain.


This handy guide counsels that there is no one test to figure out if a mushroom can be safely eaten.  A common myth is that poisonous ones will blacken a spoon, while edible mushrooms peel easily, and “magic” mushrooms turn blue after they are uprooted.  Be warned this publication states that None of these tests can be relied on!


They suggest that you should go with an experienced identifier until you know your stuff.  And getting a comprehensive fungi guide such as Collins Guide to Mushrooms and Toadstools is a good idea or if you are looking for “magic” mushrooms they recommend A Guide to British Psilocybin Mushrooms (both can be found in the Botany Libraries for reference.)  Img0032Once you have your identification books with you it will be easier to identify fungi in the field.  The physical features of the mushroom hold the key, step one is to look at the cap and observe its shape and color, then determine if the surface is shiny or dull and if there are lines.  To get a look at the flesh break off a bit, smell it, and note the color of the gills and how they are attached to the stem. What shape and color are the stem?  Are there rings on it?  Is there a bulb at the bottom?  Always make sure that it is a mature specimen because a great deal of fatal cases of mushroom poisoning happen when people pick a mushroom before it is fully developed because characteristics revealing its poisonous nature may not yet be present.

Mushroom poisoning can be observed as quickly as 20 minutes after eating or as late as 40 hours, the later it takes symptoms to show the more serious the situation because the poison has had time to circulate within the body.  Medical advise should be sought immediately even if you begin to feel better because is a characteristic of the poison to have periods of recovery followed by eventual demise.

Hallucinogenic mushrooms : a Release guideImg0029 / written by the Release Collective ; illustrations by Grant.  London : Release, 1979 can be found in Widener’s collection.

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

October 6th, 2016

Lost Maiden found

It’s official: I adore the Illustrated London News [this is a Harvard resource I fear, and password-protected]. Once again, it has come to my rescue when I’ve needed solid visual clarification about a historical event. This time (regular readers will remember my earlier Crimean adventure) as a part of the clean-up after our Historical Sheet Music Collections survey, I was cataloging a series of sheet music imprints featuring Marie Taglioni (or so I thought), and after running through the usual complement of images from La Sylphide, I ran across this detached, closely-cropped cover.

Taglioni Mazurka cover

Taglioni Mazurka cover

Keep reading →

October 6th, 2016

Want to live on a Commune?

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

What exactly is a Commune?  I’ll use the words from the Commune : Journal of the Commune Movement to explore the concept.  According to Joan (one of the contributors) there are

Img0041many different types of Commune scenes.  You have therapeutic communes who are concerned with curing an ill of their choosing, specifically formed for this one purpose.  We have “hippy” communes which are characterized by lack of commitment to everything, no economic plan or concern for meeting basic needs.  Digger communes are focused on independence from society and making an alternate society of their own.  Ideological communes are focused on a specific ideology such as vegetarianism or religion.  Then we have the ordinary communes where people think that life is more interesting in large groups and that practical and interpersonal problems may be more easily solved within these groups.  There is a mixture of people with different ages, beliefs, financial status, sexual orientations, and they are often oriented towards making a craft that can be sold outside the commune.  Other characteristics are a willingness to contribute to a need of society as a whole but they are typically more interested in creating an alternate economic system.

Img0044For example this helpful article which reveals some basic tips on keeping chickens.  To keep six chickens you want to have a 6ft by 4ft space which will ideally fit the coop and be facing South with plenty of windows to get as much light as possible.

The object of the Commune movement is clearly stated in each issue: To create a federal society of communities wherein everyone shall be free to do whatever he wishes provided only that he doesn’t transgress the freedom of another.

We discovered three issues that span 1969-1974 and give an interesting look at the evolution of the publication itself.  Issue no.30 (1969) which is the green cover below is stapled together and most likely produced with a typewriter.  No.37 (1971) has come quite a bit further for it is mass produced, has a table of contents, and contains well-articulated articles such as the one on types of communes I mentioned earlier.  By the time we reach 1974 with our other issue the greater sophistication is clear with the detailed cover art, illustrations combined with articles, book reviews, and financial details of the organization.

 Img0039 Img0040


To learn more about Commune life you can find Communes : journal of the Commune Movement. Taunton (Somerset) : Commune Movement, 1965- in Widener’s collection.

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

October 4th, 2016

New on OASIS in October

Finding aids for two collections have been added to the OASIS database this month:

Minimally Processed by: Melanie Wisner

Opera Boston records, circa 2003-2013 (MS Thr 1536)

Minimally Processed by: Dana Gee with assistance from Andrea Cawelti and Adrien Hilton

Edward C. Vose collection of sheet music, 1870-1950 (MS Thr 1546)

October 3rd, 2016

Top Secret Weapons Systems of 1792

IC7.N1628C2.792rIn late 1792, most of Europe was becoming increasingly troubled by the aggressive actions of France’s revolutionary First Republic, which had declared war on Austria and Prussia in April 1792. The War of the First Coalition (1792–1797) was the first attempt by the European monarchies to defeat the French in their political ambitions. The Austrian Netherlands, the Rhine, and Great Britain sent invading forces into France. As a member of the House of Bourbon, King Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples, naturally joined in the fray.


This set of remarkable state directives, largely unrecorded, document a massive build-up of the Neapolitan military in preparation for its mobilization. The Englishman Sir John Francis Edward Acton, Ferdinand’s prime minister and a commander of the Neapolitan land and sea forces, was ultimately responsible for the sophisticated strategies they reveal. There is no doubt that they would have been classified as highly sensitive with their precise technical specifications for dozens of types of artillery, including heavy portable weaponry. The thick paper stock that buckles and waves and frustrates attempts to scan would have helped them stand the abrasive use by foundries and military operatives in the field.

[Thanks to Karen Nipps, Head of the Rare Book Cataloging Team, for making this post.]


September 26th, 2016

A picture is worth a thousand words

423811256We have all heard it. If you think of googling it, by the way, don’t—nobody really knows who said it first. We have all said it. Ironically, even writers are fond of it. “The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book,” says Evgenii Bazarov, the revolutionary-inclined youth of Ivan Turgenev’s novel, “Fathers and Sons,” to Anna Sergeevna Odintsov, a noble woman of considerable beauty and ability to make men fall in love with her. It is perhaps worth mentioning that in his case, the words come from the mouth of a nihilist and a cynic.

But say that to a cataloger and you are unlikely to get a favorable response—more like a severe glance and pursed lips. A thousand or not, words are the stuff cataloging is made of. And being neither cynics nor nihilists, in cataloging we believe in words. The question is what made us start using pictures in our cataloging? Keep reading →

September 22nd, 2016

Bear’s foot?

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

Img0002I have to say as we have processed this immense collection one of the things that never ceases to delight me are the names of various plants.  For example Bear’s foot, which is named because it has an extremely fetid smell, which only leads me to wonder how does one get close enough to a bear to smell its foot?  Is this a common occurrence for botanists?  The leaves from bear’s foot are very bitter and acrid so if chewed it will actually abrade the mouth.  Why might you be chewing the leaves?  The leaves will cause vomiting so in the past it was administered to children to expel round worm, but is counseled against in this text because it can be dangerous when given too high of a dosage.

Img0004Authored by George Spratt, a surgeon, the Medico-botanical pocket-book was published in London around 1836.  It is a pocket sized reference tool containing plates that illustrate specific plants, some of which are beautifully hand colored.  The cardinal flower which is native to Virginia was introduced to America by the botanist Ray.  The root of this plant has a taste resembling tobacco and in the not too distant past it was often used to help treat fever sores, cramps, and again induce vomiting if one ate something poisonous.  Apparently the Native Americans often used cardinal flower for both medicinal and ritual usage.  It was both used as a type of ceremonial tobacco and thrown to the winds to ward off storms as well as an ingredient in love charms.


Something that was unexpected in this volume was the appendix which relates information about poisons.  This section gives diagnostic and general symptoms, treatment, and morbid appearances.  Included are various tests for each poison complete with these amazing little drawings that illustrate the experiments.  This particular illustration displays how to test for arsenic in various chemical compounds and the actual colors that result when arsenic is present in them.

The medico-botanical pocket-book : comprising a compendium of vegetable toxicology … ; to which is added an appendix, containing practical observations on some of the mineral and other poisons, illustrated with tests / by G. Spratt. London : Published for the author by J. Churchill, [1836].  Pp Sp7m 1836. can be found in the Botany Libraries.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, Gretchen Wade, Judith Warnement, and Chris Robson of the Botany Libraries for contributing to this post.

September 16th, 2016


Sheet music 618 caption detail

Dance notation is one of those tricky subjects which has been discussed for centuries: no matter how you write it down, you’re sure to miss something important. I’ve discussed some examples here in in the blog, particularly regarding Feuillet notation (which was a particular interest of Professor Ward’s). But sometimes folks just take things into their own hands.

Sheet music 618 cover

Sheet music 618 cover

Keep reading →

September 14th, 2016

New on OASIS in September

Four finding aids for newly accessioned or cataloged collections have been added to the OASIS database this month.

Newly cataloged by: Irina Klyagin and Christine Jacobson

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana papers on Soviet theater and film and university lecture notes, 1902-1955 (MS Thr 402)

Minimally Processed by: Melanie Wisner

Tina Howe papers, circa 1958-2015 (MS Thr 1487)

Bernth and Judith Lindfors collection concerning Ira Aldridge, Paul Robeson, African, and African American performers, circa 1780-1938 (MS Thr 1507)

Violette Verdy papers, circa 1952-1992 (MS Thr 1493)

September 8th, 2016

Dope is falling from the sky

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


Marijuana monthly is a periodical unsurprisingly devoted to all things marijuana.  Smuggling, growing, dealing, legal cases and aspects, and even some curious adventures that the staff experienced.

One of the included articles reveals a story of aerial marijuana smuggling between Mexico and the United States.  Martin Houltin who the author says is the “grandaddy of marijuana aviation history” had a particularly interesting story.  Houltin lived in Columbus, New Mexico in 1968 which is just north of the border and when he wasn’t smuggling grass seemed like most other citizens of the small town.  Houltin reportedly didn’t deal or smoke the large quantities of marijuana but only transported them.  By 1973 he was running one of the largest air smuggling rings and though most people in the town were aware of what he was doing no one seemed to care, however U.S. Customs was the exception.  When the DEA was formed in late 1973 Houltin became a “special project” and they focused major resources to bust him.  Operation “Skynight” cost about $2 million and resulted in the arrest of Houltin who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1974.


The people involved in the publication were extremely active in the marijuana movement as editor Rick Sanders outlines their daily lives in his monthly column “From the Head Head.”  In issue no. 5 he reveals to readers that during the previous month they were busted at the border for a joint and he thanks US Customs and the DEA for not giving them 50 years in jail.  Sanders also encourages everyone to join the movement and write to their elected leaders in order to change the drug laws.


I’ll leave you with the words of Rick Sanders- Be Right On.

See the evolution of the various publication issues with digital scans of the covers from Marijuana monthly. Panorama City, Calif., Sanders Pub. Co., 1975- which can be found in Widener’s collection.

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

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