Baking Emily Dickinson’s Black Cake


cut_cakeThe Emily Dickinson manuscripts are a cherished part of Houghton Library’s collections and while it is her poems and letters that are most often celebrated, we’ve lately been dwelling on the poet’s lesser known lines: “2 Butter. / 19 eggs. / 5 pounds Raisins.”

Dickinson’s manuscript recipe for black cake, from which these lines come, was sent along with a bouquet of flowers to Nellie Sweetser in the summer of 1883. Black cake, a traditional Christmas specialty closely related to the English fruitcake, but “blackened” with the addition of burnt sugar syrup or molasses, was generously spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, and clove before being wrapped in brandy or rum-soaked cloth and often aged at least a month. The recipe Dickinson left, though somewhat shocking to a modern viewer (19 eggs!), turns out to be remarkably orthodox in its ratios–if not its scale. Fully assembled, the recipe produces batter weighing in excess of 20 pounds.


A Yogi’s thoughts


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

This colorful volume is the work of Peter Max, a German artist, who dedicated this book to the brothers and sisters of the Integral Yoga Institute.  The founder of the Integral Yoga Institute was Satchidananda Saraswati, an Indian man who was a religious teacher, spiritual master, and master yogi.  Peter Max apparently asked him to come visit New York City in 1966 and soon thereafter Swami Satchidananda moved to America and started the Integral Yoga Institute, which still exists today.

Swami Satchidananda first gained public attention as the opening speaker in Woodstock in 1969.  He was a spiritual guru to numerous celebrities and musicians as he sought to bring understanding among all religions of the world.  Woodstock-710x380

The text that accompanies Max’s artwork is credited as coming from Swami Sivananda, another Hindu spiritual teacher and proponent of yoga.


Img0047Max’s illustrations are very visually striking with extremely saturated colors that are paired with Swami Sivananda’s words…

“You may wrongly think that you have kept your thoughts in secret.  The thoughts of anger, lust, greed, jealousy, revenge and hatred produce impressions on your face.”

Thought. [With the words of Swami Sivananda, Himalayas].  Editorial assistance by Arjuna (Victor Zurbel). New York, Morrow, 1970 can be found in Widener’s collection. 

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

Documenting an activist and his cause


The volume pictured here, C.K.C. – his book, chronicles the efforts of a little-known activist to establish international limitations on the opium trade. Charles Kittredge Crane (1881-1932) dedicated himself singly to this cause, which culminated in three League of Nations conventions held in Geneva: the first and second back-to-back in 1924 and 1925, and the third in 1931.

These conventions came at a time when opium and its derivatives were only recently under regulation in the United States. In the first years of the twentieth century, American access to opium was common, albeit restricted to pharmaceutical channels. The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 technically enacted new taxes on opiates rather than criminalizing them, but in practice diminished supply and stigmatized use in a manner tantamount to prohibition; where addicts were once prescribed limited doses of drugs, they were now facing mass incarceration.


“A sense of happiness stole over him”

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


Blackie, Fullerton & Co. was originally a bookselling firm founded in Glasgow in 1809 by John Blackie Sr., Archibald Fullerton, and William Somerville.  They specialized in the sale of books in monthly or quarterly installments, mainly by subscription.  Two years after its founding, the firm began publishing its own materials.   In 1831, it became a family business after Fullerton and Somerville’s retirements, taking on John Blackie Jr. as a partner and renaming itself to Blackie & Son.  The company amalgamated with a printing company run by a younger son of John Blackie Sr., and in 1890 was renamed Blackie & Son Limited.  The company opened operations in India, Canada, and Australia in the first half of the 20th century, and continued to publish until 1991.


Spurred on by compulsory education for children aged 5 to 13 in England and Wales made possible by the Elementary Education Act of 1870, Blackie & Son Ltd focused much of its attention on educational texts and other books for children.   Along with reimaginings of classic literature for schools like Little Women and Wuthering Heights, Blackie & Son Ltd produced a Boy’s Annual and Girl’s Annual, filled with short stories and illustrations of adventure.

This installment, believed to be from 1929, most likely made it into the Santo Domingo collection because of stories like “Hashish” by Walter Rhoades, about an English sailor on a Malaysian rubber plantation.  The protagonist gets in with the wrong crowd and finds himself being smoked out of his hiding place with charcoal and hemp, which “would act very much like opium, and send you off.”


The University of Glasgow holds the business records of Blackie & Son Ltd in their archive.  See the finding aid here.

To learn more, Blackie’s Boys Annual can be found in Widener’s collection.  London: Blackie & Son Limited, [1929].

Thanks to Irina Rogova, Santo Domingo Library Assistant, for contributing this post.

New on OASIS in December

Finding aids for two newly cataloged collections and a preliminary box list for a recent acquisition have been added to the OASIS database this month.

Processed by: Christine Jacobson and Irina Klyagin
Nicholas Daniloff papers (MS Am 2933)

Processed by: Kristin Alexander
Julia Marlowe collection of letters and photographs (MS Thr 1175)

New preliminary box list for collection processed by Melanie Wisner
Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave papers relating to Villard, the life and times of an American titan (MS Am 3059)