May 16th, 2017

Open House 75: Houghton Library Staff Select

The 75th anniversary of Houghton Library has provided an occasion to reflect on the library’s founding and history, to connect with friends and supporters old and new, and to consider the challenges and opportunities that will shape our future. Open House 75  Throughout our 75th year, we have carried out a series of events, publications, and other activities designed to promote the library and its collections, programs, and services.  The first of our series of 75th anniversary exhibitions HIST 75H: A Master Class on Houghton Library featured a partnership with Harvard faculty, nearly fifty of whom selected for display and narrated a collection item of personal or professional significance. Now it is Houghton staff’s turn to take the stage with Open House 75: Houghton Library Staff Select.

Open House 75 showcases memorable collection items encountered by staff during careers at the library that range from four months to over forty years. A microcosm of Houghton in breadth and depth, highlights from Open House 75 range from a Renaissance letter written by Michelangelo and a missive stained by Hemingway’s sweat, to a moving instance of gay fandom and women writers on domesticity and revolution. Among the notable “firsts” represented are the diary of the first American meteorologist and an Edison lightbulb that illuminated America’s first electrified theater. Cultural treasures from Liberia and Japan are presented alongside everyday objects such as a Roman coin and a Panama hat; taken together, these and other objects in the exhibition suggest the rich variety of human experience housed within Houghton’s walls.

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May 11th, 2017

Julian I. Edison in Memoriam

Houghton Library is saddened to learn that Julian I. Edison (AB ’51, MBA ’53) of St. Louis, Missouri, passed away on Monday, May 8, 2017. With Mr. Edison’s death, both Houghton and Harvard University have lost one of their most distinguished and generous supporters.

Julian was the former CEO and chairman of Edison Brothers Stores, Inc., a national retail chain founded by his uncles in 1922.  He was truly loyal to Harvard, supporting the university in numerous ways, and was involved in many charitable organizations in St. Louis including the Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Washington University in St. Louis.

Julian I. Edison (left) at Houghton Library in 2005.

Julian I. Edison (left) at Houghton Library in 2005.

Julian was a book collector of considerable distinction; his collection of miniature books was world renown both for its size and variety.  He was named one of “100 Top Collectors” by Art & Antiques magazine in March 2007.  The Edison Collection was the subject of exhibitions here at Houghton Library in 2005 and in 2007 at the Grolier Club in New York.  Julian was the author, with Anne C. Bromer, of the comprehensive and extensively illustrated Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2007).  The Edison Collection was given by him to Special Collections at the Olin Library at the Washington University in St. Louis.

We at Houghton Library are especially grateful to Julian and members of his family for a generous gift to renovate the Library’s exhibition and events room which now bear their names.  The Edison and Newman Room was dedicated in 2005 –its inaugural exhibition was the aforementioned Miniature Books– and remains the space where thousands of visitors learn about our collections each year.  Julian’s understanding of the role of special collections libraries was key in this gift.

Julian’s enthusiasm was infectious and we will miss his rapid-fire questions on many subjects.  He never really ended many of his conversations and letters, but simply stopped them temporarily with the telling phrase “to be continued.”  His memory will be continued for many years to come at Houghton Library.

Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library

William Stoneman, Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts and former Florence Fearrington Librarian

 

 

May 9th, 2017

New on OASIS in May

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

Processed by Michael Austin:
José María Castañé Collection of Photographs by Agustí Centelles, circa 1936-1939 (MS Span 181)

 
Minimally Processed by Adrien Hilton:
George Antheil Papers, circa 1950-1953 (MS Thr 1601)

 
Processed by Irina Klyagin:
Elena Bonner Papers, circa 1930-2003 (MS Russ 134)

 
Minimally Processed by Melanie Wisner:
Thomas Buford Meteyard personal and family papers, circa 1849-1982 (MS Typ 1144)

May 2nd, 2017

Houghton Library, Now in Convenient Book Form

Houghton Library at 75Houghton Library turned 75 this year, and as part of the anniversary celebrations we’ve just published a collection of some of our rarest, most beautiful, and most significant books, manuscripts, and objects, entitled Houghton Library at 75: A Celebration of Its Collections. “We are proud to release this publication as part of a series of activities and events designed to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Houghton Library,” remarked Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library. “The book displays a dazzling selection of items from the library’s collections, and is at once visually striking and intellectually engaging.”
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April 28th, 2017

The Houghton Gradual and the Choir Books in Malta

Dr Theresa Zammit Lupi, Katharine F. Pantzer Jr Fellowship in Descriptive Bibliography 2016-2017, Houghton Library

MS Lat 186, f182v. MS Lat 186 at the Houghton Library is one of a set of four surviving French graduals that were illuminated by Jean Pichore (d. 1521) and his workshop in the first quarter of the 16th century. The manuscript was recently returned to Houghton after being exhibited at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art as part of the multi-venue exhibition Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections.

The Houghton manuscript contains 200 folios and measures 470 x 675mm (including the binding). The manuscript is a Common of Saints and includes the sung Catholic mass in Gregorian chant for eight masses to commemorate the lives of apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins. It includes ten historiated initials with decorated borders that extend beyond the initial on all sides of the folio. The gradual is made of parchment and bound in leather over oak boards. Its binding is embellished with metal furnishings including bosses, clasps and corner pieces.
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April 25th, 2017

John Lithgow: Actor as Artist

Exhibit opens showcasing ‘Trial & Error’ star’s talent for drawing as well as drama.

lithgow_headshot2Halfway through his freshman year, John Lithgow set his sights on a summer residency at the artist colony in Skowhegan, Maine. Hoping to give his son’s application an edge, John’s father arranged a private interview with the painter Ben Shahn, a formidable presence at this mecca for aspiring artists. Brusque and opinionated, Shahn peppered a wide-eyed, young Lithgow with questions: “If you want to be an artist,” he growled, “what the hell are you doing at Harvard?”

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April 20th, 2017

Pipe, top hat, and tails???

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library

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Size matters! was the motto that Wilhelm Moser and David Culby took quite seriously when creating The Manipulator in Dusseldorf in the 1980s.  This art magazine is an impressive 70 cm long by 50 cm wide and marks the heyday of the photographic press before digital images and Photoshop.  It became a trailblazer for other extra-large photographic publications.  The Manipulator would take images and blow them up to extremely large sizes, in either black and white or color, and combine them with text focusing on film, fashion, art and design, architecture and often ethical and historical subjects.  This type of independent publishing carried on the tradition of Andy Warhol’s Interview from the 1970s which focused on celebrity and popular culture.

This particular issue featuring our friend the dog is no.19 and displays the variety of content one would find within the magazine.  You can see the larger than life advertising with this Moschino ad which was part of a campaign that Moschino, a high-end fashion house, ran mocking the elite snobbery or “fashion system.”  fullsizerender-4Franco Moschino was a designer that liked to challenge the fashion world and believed that it was a creative outlet meant to be fun and playful.  This type of advertising as art was a very new concept at the time.

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Then you turn the page and are faced with these amazing reproductions from the French newspaper Le Petit Journal.  Both images have been blow up to the fill the full 70 x 50 cm pages.  And both people are being spectacularly attacked by tigers and an octopus respectively.  I’d say humans 0, animal kindgom 2.

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They published a total of 29 issues and the covers can be seen as a kind of graphic anthology of the 1980s and have become somewhat of a collector’s item.  This is the only issue we found in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo collection and Harvard has no other holdings or issues of the Manipulator.

The Manipulator. [Düsseldorf] ;[New York, N.Y.] / Wilhelm Moser and David Culby can be found in the Fine Arts Library collection.

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

April 19th, 2017

New on OASIS in April

Three finding aids for newly cataloged collections have been added to the OASIS database this month:

Processed by: Michael Austin
José María Castañé Collection of Autographed Portraits of Political Leaders, circa 1906-2005 (MS Span 180)

Processed by: Irina Klyagin
José María Castañé Collection of Political Broadsides from Revolutionary Russia, 1917-1920 (MS Russ 135)

Processed by: Melanie Wisner
Jonathan Bayliss Papers, 1926-2009 (MS Am 3093)

March 23rd, 2017

A Postcard for every Occasion

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library

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Pulps are so called because of the low quality of paper, coarse untreated paper produced from wood pulp, on which they were printed. Because the quality of paper was so poor it meant that it was cheap thus keeping production costs low and the subsequent cost for the reader low as well.  Also because it was already so cheap they didn’t need advertisers within the early magazines.  Pulp magazines typically published escapist fiction for the popular entertainment of a mass audience and it was an incredibly successful model.  By 1915 it is estimated that a combination of eight of these magazines had a readership of 15% of the U.S. population.  These pulp novels featured cover art that revels in exploitation fantasies and lurid depictions of women, teenagers, sex, and drugs.  Teen-rebel dope fiends is book of postcards featuring some of the most daring covers which were immediately familiar to me because we have the original pulps in the collection.

img0018 For instance we have this paperback edition of Claude Farrere’s Black Opium, originally Fumée d’opium, translated from the French by Samuel Putnam at Houghton.  You can see that the cover blurb appears to feign disgust about the use of opium calling it “…shocking ecstasy of the forbidden”, but the illustration of the woman coming out of the opium pipe is clearly celebrating a sensationalist attitude designed to titillate the readers.  img0020I also noticed the postcard cover of Junkie by William Lee, a pseudonym for William S. Burroughs.  This was the first published novel by Burroughs, it was semi-autobiographical and dealt with his experiences with heroin.  It was bound back-to-back with Narcotic Agent an abridgement of the memoirs of FBI agent Maurice Helbrant in an attempt to balance out unapologetic stories of drug use.  So two books for the low price of 35 cents.  The publisher A. A. Wyn also insisted that Burroughs add a preface explaining how someone like Burroughs, a Harvard graduate from a prominent family, was a drug addict.  

The illustration on the cover of Junkie is again typical of these pulps.  We see an attractive blond woman in a scarlet skirt being forced to release her desperate grip on a syringe with other drug implements strewn across a table.  Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict practically screams at the reader about the depravity of drugs and the unsavory consequences that can be found within its pages.  Junkie is particularly interesting because of its evolution of cover art as Burroughs became a respected writer.  It transforms from a “cheap shocker” to a respected cult novel by the 50th Anniversary publication.

junkie_william_s-_burroughs_novel_-_2003_coverPulps have often been deemed unworthy of study because they epitomize mainstream culture of the 20th-century and until recently not many have been interested in this area of research, particularly academia.  I would argue that the look at popular culture is exactly what makes pulps so fascinating to us today and more and more researchers are interested in studying them.  However pulps can be challenging to collect because they are so ephemeral and people just read them and never thought about saving them.  Also there are preservation challenges because of the cheap paper so they are brittle making handling of them difficult.  Luckily for us some collectors saw the value in keeping these types of novels and in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo collection there are an abundance of these pulp novels, many of whose covers are featured in this delightful volume of postcards.

To get a glimpse of more pulp covers you can find Teen-rebel dope fiends : pulp postcardsLondon : Prion, 2000 in Widener’s collection. 

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

March 15th, 2017

The [n.d.]s of March, or, Recataloging Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar, 1684A few weeks ago I was in the stacks on some bibliographical errand relating to modern acting editions of Julius Caesar, when I took a moment to appreciate that nearby on the shelf were several seventeenth-century quarto editions of the play. One was dated 1684, another 1691, and between them, intriguingly, were four undated editions. Shelved as they were among old transfers from Widener, I wondered if the HOLLIS records for these Restoration era quartos were really up to snuff.

In the case of the editions dated 1684 and 1691, it is gratifying to report that the HOLLIS records were fine, if not up to the standard they might receive if the library acquired them today. Author, title, imprint, date, extent, a few notes and references were all present — these were decent records. The four undated editions, however, needed some attention.
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