November 1st, 2013

La main enchantée

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

Today from the Santo Domingo Collection, we have a handsomely designed volume: this edition of La main enchantée (The enchanted hand), a fantasy story by the French author and poet Gérard Labrunie, who wrote under the pen name Gérard de Nerval. (Students of French literary biography may best remember Nerval for taking his pet lobster, Thibault, for walks in the Palais Royal gardens.) Nerval originally published this story in the newspaper Le cabinet de lecture in 1832, under the title “La main de gloire”. In it, a timorous clothier named Eustache Bouteroue seeks to triumph in an impending duel by putting an enchantment on one of his hands, then attempts to renege on payment for said enchantment, with predictably dire results.

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October 31st, 2013

Happy Halloween from the Roosevelts

In a newly-acquired photograph album that belonged to the family of Theodore Roosevelt, we discovered this delightful, undated, image of a Roosevelt family jack-o-lantern, sitting on the porch at Sagamore Hill.

The pumpkin seems to be sporting not only a pince-nez, but also a handsome mustache, suggesting that perhaps it’s in costume.

[Heather Cole, Assistant Curator of Modern Books & Manuscripts and Curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, contributed this post.]

October 29th, 2013

Curiosities of Chinese Medicine

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

Médecine et pharmacopée en Chine is comprised of three volumes that are each bound with colored cord inside an illustrated paper cover.  Published in early 20th-century France the volumes appear to explore medicine and pharmacology in China.  Each individual volume begins with a beautiful color illustration depicting a topic related to Medicine, Pharmacy and Therapeutics, or Medical Superstitions.

One of the illustrations depicts the practice of acupuncture.  It is interesting that the scientific benefits of acupuncture are still debated in present day.  Though the exact origins of acupuncture are disputed most typically agree that it was being practiced during the Han Dynasty in China during the 2nd century.

One of the difficulties in proving the effectiveness of acupuncture is that it is difficult to run a placebo control group since the very action involves piercing the skin with a needle.  More traditional Western medicine has cautiously agreed that acupuncture can be effective for certain conditions though they admit they cannot exactly explain why it works.  Regardless of proven scientific fact many people believe in acupuncture’s ability to relieve nausea and chronic pain and popularity of the practice has greatly increased in the past 20 years.

The third volume explores various medical superstitions that were commonly used in China.  This illustration depicts a man using a rooster to help set a woman’s fracture.  I think the idea is that using the rooster blood will assist in the healing process.

To learn more the Médecine et pharmacopée en Chine. [France] : Editions des Laboratoires du Mictasol, [192-?].  R601 .M48 can be found at the Countway Library at the Harvard Medical School in Longwood.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager and Joan Thomas, Rare Book Cataloger at Countway for contributing this post.

October 25th, 2013

Houghton Acquires an Astronomical Rarity

Kepler, Johannes, 1571-1630. Ad rerum coelstium amatores universos. 2013-397. Title page.One of the strengths of our collection is in the history of astronomy, and particularly an outstanding collection of the works of Johannes Kepler. So I’m very pleased to announce that we have just acquired the rarest work in Kepler’s bibliography, Ad Rerum Coelestium Amatores Universos … De Solis Deliquio. This slim volume documents an eclipse Kepler witnessed almost exactly 408 years ago, on October 12, 1605. Kepler observed the eclipse much the same way schoolchildren are taught today, using a pinhole camera which projected an image of the sun onto a sheet of paper. At just 16 pages, the work’s small size may have contributed to its low survival rate; Houghton’s copy is just the fourth known among the world’s libraries.

Kepler, Johannes, 1571-1630. Ad rerum coelstium amatores universos. 2013-397.

[John Overholt, Curator of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Samuel Johnson and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts, contributed this post.]

October 23rd, 2013

Virtually Dickinson

We are very pleased to announce the launch of the Emily Dickinson Archive,, an open-access site that brings together nearly all of Emily Dickinson’s extant poetry manuscripts. A collaborative effort across many institutions, the resource provides readers with images of manuscripts held in multiple libraries and archives, and also offers an array of transcriptions of Dickinson’s poems and digital tools intended to foster exploration and scholarship.

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October 22nd, 2013

You shall not Pass!

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

Lowell Thomas was an American writer, traveler, and broadcaster that is often known as the person who made Lawrence of Arabia famous.  This graphic depiction of an Afghan man is from the dust jacket of Beyond Khyber Pass into forbidden Afghanistan a book by Thomas about his travels and observations in the 1920s of Afghanistan.  Beyond Khyber Pass was no easy feat to write since it took Thomas two years just to gain access to the country itself for as he states in the book “…our chances of getting to Kabul seemed to be considerably less than those of a camel’s passing through the eye of a needle.”  Just as they were about to give up hope the intervention of his Majesty Amanullah Khan, Amir of Afghanistan meant success for their endeavor.

Historically Khyber Pass was an important trade route and once an integral part of the Silk Road, which connected East to West and was highly significant in the developing civilization of China, Europe, and India.  Khyber Pass goes through the Spin Ghar mountains that connect Afghanistan and current day Pakistan, which at the time was British controlled India.


As the title indicates Thomas travels beyond the pass and explores the country and notoriously isolated people of Afghanistan.  The journey throughout the book is filled with both engaging writing, as well as reproductions of photographs taken by both Thomas and his companion Harry Chase.  To learn more about this fascinating cultural exploration look at Beyond Khyber Pass into forbidden Afghanistan. Illustrated with many original photographs taken by Harry A. Chase and the author. New York, Grosset & Dunlap [1925].

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

October 22nd, 2013

Where can you purchase a handsome notecard for $2?

Houghton Library Note Cards

Houghton Library, that’s where!

10 new notecards added in the lobby carousels

Staff, Readers, Fellows and Friends… in your travels through the Houghton collections, please keep images (this can be images of text too) in mind as possible candidates for future notecards. Dark images tend to not reproduce well and we try to pick images that have already been digitized. Please send suggestions to Monique Duhaime at  Duhaime at

Enjoy and thank you!

October 21st, 2013

New Digitization July-September 2013

Sapho : souvenir program, 1900. MS Thr 712 (87)Here are the complete works and collections we’ve digitized in the last three months. Highlights include programs from the Ballets Russes, a 16th century manuscript map of the Mediterranean, and the typescript of a play by Henry James.
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October 11th, 2013

It’s a dog’s life

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

  Stephen Huneck was not only an American author but a carving artist, painter, and furniture maker.  Originally from Sudbury, Massachusetts he began working in wood when he lived in Rochester, Vermont.  He was ostensibly discovered when an art dealer bought a carved angel out of the back of his truck for $1000.  After a near death experience with respiratory distress syndrome he began work on the Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  An homage to dogs the chapel has both human sized doors and a dog door, as well as carved wooden dogs on the pews and stained glass windows of dogs.  My Dog’s Brain is about his beloved black lab Sally, which recounts a glimpse into the psyche of a dog and how she spends her days.      Huneck credited his recovery after his near death experience to his dog, as well as the process of making the woodcuts for the book.  

Tragically Huneck committed suicide in 2010.  Art pieces of Huneck’s can be found at the Smithsonian and the Museum of American Folk Art.  To look at more of the gorgeous illustrations the book can be found through the Fine Arts Library.  My dog’s brain / by Stephen Huneck.  New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Viking Studio, c1997. NE1112.H86 A4 1997 .

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager and Leo Evangelista Cataloging Specialist at 625, for contributing this post.

October 11th, 2013

Contributing Data for Greater Understanding

Lower edge, markings of the Franciscans of San Cerbone, Lucca, WKR 21.6.3On Monday of last week Dr. Cristina Dondi, one of the contributors to the six-volume Catalogue of Printed Books in the Fifteenth Century now in the Bodleian Library (Bod-Inc), principal investigator of Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI), and, Secretary of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL), spoke at Houghton library on her current research and on Thursday she gave a workshop using materials drawn from the Library’s collections.  This series of lectures and workshops on early books and manuscripts is funded by Houghton Library, the Harvard University Program in Medieval Studies and the Harvard Law School Library’s Special Collections.  One of Dr. Dondi’s examples in the workshop was especially exciting as an indication of how Harvard Library material can contribute to a larger and collective understanding of the spread of early printing through an analysis of prices, trade and use.  We are grateful to volunteer John Lancaster who has been entering  Harvard data into MEI and we are pleased that Dr. Dondi has agreed to allow us to use her remarks in this blog. Keep reading →

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