June 12th, 2013

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Houghton Twitter logoHere at Houghton we are constantly digitizing new material. We’ll continue to post about larger items and collections and collections here on the Houghton Blog under the digitzation tag. But there are also so many interesting and beautiful single images that we wanted to find a home for as well, so we’ve created a new Tumblr blog to show them off.

And remember, for all your Houghton Library news, including new blog posts, exhibitions and events, discoveries in the collections and more, follow us on Twitter at @HoughtonLib.

June 10th, 2013

Adding a page to Lincoln’s oldest manuscript

One of the highlights of our 2009 exhibition Harvard’s Lincoln was this early leaf of mathematics exercises in Abraham Lincoln’s hand. Now, two researchers at Illinois State University have announced confirmation that this Houghton item (MS Am 1326) is the long-separated 11th leaf of a “cyphering book” Lincoln prepared in 1825, at the age of 16. It is the earliest surviving work in Lincoln’s hand.

Abraham Lincoln. Exercise book fragment: manuscript (recto), [ca. 1825] MS Am 1326

Abraham Lincoln. Exercise book fragment: manuscript (verso), [ca. 1825] MS Am 1326

The original manuscript was separated by Lincoln’s friend and law partner William Herndon, and the Houghton leaf is accompanied by a presentation letter from Herndon. Two fragments of another leaf, one held at Brown University and the other at the University of Chicago, were digitally reunited at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project in 2010.

June 7th, 2013

You’ve Got Mail: Eight Further Unpublished Letters by William Morris

William Morris, ALS to Laurence Hodson, June 17, 1895.On 4 April 2013 books, manuscripts, and art work from the collection of Laurence W. Hodson (1864-1933) were auctioned at Bloomsbury Auctions in London. Hodson also sold books and manuscripts from his library in 1906, but this most recent auction will allow scholars to evaluate more effectively Hodson’s role as an important art collector; as founder, with C. R. Ashbee, of the Essex House Press; and as patron of William Morris. Houghton Library acquired a number of lots at the auction, including extensive correspondence with Sydney Cockerell, F. J. Furnivall and Emery Walker and other members of the Kelmscott Press circle, and eight hitherto unrecorded and unpublished letters from Morris to Hodson. A correspondence between Morris and Hodson had been hypothesized since Morris and Co. were engaged to refurbish the interior of Hodson’s residence, Compton Hall, near Wolverhampton, and the last wallpaper designed by the company was produced for the house and bears its name, “Compton.”
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June 1st, 2013

New on OASIS in June

Finding aids for six newly cataloged collections have added to the OASIS database this month, among them a number of Edward Lear collections, including the illustrations for his beloved “Nonsense” books.

Lear, Edward, 1812-1888. There was an old man with an owl. MS Typ 55 (36)
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May 27th, 2013

A Very Historic Moment in Caribbean Studies: Boisrond-Tonnerre’s Mémoires (1804) online

Boisrond-Tonnerre, Louis. Mémoires pour servir a l'histoire d'Hayti, 1804. *FC8 B6366 804m[Thanks to Jean Jonassaint, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Syracuse University, for contributing this guest post about a recently digitized Houghton item.]

Although originally published in 1804 in Dessalines (then capital of Hayti), it is with their second edition by Saint-Remy (Paris, 1851), that Boisrond-Tonnerre’s Mémoires were passed on to posterity.

Until recently, misled by Saint-Remy’s remarks on the rarity of the book and his difficulties in tracing a single copy in good condition in the 1840s, it was generally incorrectly assumed that the original edition was no longer available, or perhaps never even existed as Raphaël Berrou and Pradel Pompilus claimed in their Manuel d’histoire de la littérature haïtienne. Decades later, it was also Marlene Daut’s first conclusion as she states in an article on Boisrond-Tonnerre and de Vastey: “I have not been able to find an original copy of the 1804 text in any libraries in the U.S., France or Haiti. This caused me to momentarily question whether or not the memoir was published at all before 1851”.
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May 24th, 2013

Bound in human skin

Houghton Library contains countless curiosities. Perhaps the most disturbing example is Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc), bound in human skin.

In the mid-1880s, Houssaye (1815-1896) presented his recent book, a meditation on the soul and life after death, to his friend Dr. Ludovic Bouland (1839-1932), a noted medical doctor and prominent bibliophile. Bouland bound the book with skin from the unclaimed body of a female mental patient who had died of a stroke.

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May 21st, 2013

A pair of impostors

Coriolanus Cepio, Petri Mocenici imperatoris gesta, 1477. Inc 4369. Leaf e4 (detail)[Thanks to Renzo Baldasso, Oliver Duntze, and John Lancaster for contributing this collaborative post about a discovery made at Houghton, with additional assistance from Daniel De Simone, Eric White, and Robert Betteridge.]

A recent discovery of facsimile leaves, printed on vellum in the 1560s to supply a lack in an incunable, nicely illustrates the benefits of collaborative research in the internet era. The copy in question is Coriolanus Cepio, Petri Mocenici imperatoris gesta (Venice: Bernhard Maler, Erhard Ratdolt, and Peter Löslein, 1477), Inc 4369 (Walsh 1730; Goff C-378).

Renzo, who is working on Erhart Ratdolt, a 15th-century printer in Venice (and later in Augsburg), noticed an anomalous initial in a work printed by Ratdolt and his partners – an initial not like any other he had seen in Ratdolt’s work – as well as other curious features. The initial appears on leaf e4v of Cepio’s work; the Houghton copy is a handsome one, printed on vellum. (Only one other vellum copy is known, that from the library of King George III, in the British Library.) Comparison of the Houghton copy with the one digitized by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich and linked from ISTC substantiated the first impression, which was then verified by the images of the two copies preserved at the Library of Congress promptly supplied by Daniel DeSimone, the Curator of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection. Since Renzo’s current focus is on Ratdolt’s edition of Euclid and its illustrations, he did not pursue the matter, but handed a note about his discovery to the Houghton reading room staff, who passed it on expeditiously.
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May 17th, 2013

Outfitting the Enterprise

The buzz around Houghton’s newly acquired “Star Trek” guide sent some of us digging in the Theatre Collection for more sci-fi offerings. Thanks solely to a 1988 gift from Harvard alumnus Robert Fletcher ‘45, we were not disappointed.

Costume design for William Shatner as Capt. Kirk, Class B uniform, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Robert Fletcher, ca. 1979. *2004MT-81

Costume design for William Shatner as Capt. Kirk, Class B uniform, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Robert Fletcher, ca. 1979. *2004MT-81

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May 10th, 2013

What’s New: Colorful Adventures

Two recent acquisitions in the Early Modern Books and Manuscripts department have plenty of colorful adventures, both literally and metaphorically.

Grand Jeu des Aventures de Gil Blas. France, ca. 1800. pFB7.L5633.G800g

The first is a card game (call number pFB7.L5633.G800g) based on the classic picaresque novel L’Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane by Alain Rene Le Sage, first published in 1715. Houghton already holds a set of cards from the same publisher for a parallel game based on Don Quixote, but this item is especially exciting in that the cards are still uncut on their original sheet, and beautifully hand-colored.
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May 6th, 2013

What’s New: “Boston’s Crusade Against Slavery” exhibition opens

“Cambridge to the rescue” (Boston, Mass., 1862): broadside.   US 13207.4.20*F – No source, no date.During the Civil War era Boston led the national crusade against slavery and the struggle over emancipation and citizenship. Owing largely to activists in Boston, Massachusetts became one of the first states to end slavery. It soon granted black men full suffrage, ended the ban on interracial marriage, and in 1855 became the first state legally to desegregate public schools. During the Civil War, Bostonians were instrumental in convincing the Lincoln administration to turn a conflict fought chiefly to preserve the Union into a war for emancipation and black citizenship.

Boston’s Crusade Against Slavery features objects from the extraordinary collection at Houghton Library to highlight the city’s role in the international fight for freedom. Each case focuses on a theme connecting Boston to the larger crusade against slavery: Haiti and Toussaint Louverture; An Age of Compromise and Crises, 1820-60; Militant Boston; Music as Memory; Female Emancipators; Concord’s Response to John Brown; the Saturday Club; and an introductory case that spotlights Boston’s abolitionist leaders. Each object constitutes an important marker in the crusade. Many are on display for the first time, such as this 1862 Cambridge recruitment broadside, and have rarely, if ever, been analyzed by scholars.

The exhibition has been co-curated by Harvard students under the direction of John Stauffer, Professor of English, African and African American Studies, and History of American Civilization; and in conjunction with the public symposium, Freedom Rising, a three-day event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and African American military service. The exhibition will remain on view in the Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library, through August 23rd, 2013; an online version is forthcoming.

For details contact Peter X. Accardo at  accardo at fas.harvard.edu.

Image (click to enlarge): “Cambridge to the rescue” (Boston, Mass., 1862): broadside. US 13207.4.20*F – No source, no date.

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