May 1st, 2013

New on OASIS in May

Armstrong's Circus : colored print, 1892. MS Thr 949 (713)Finding aids for seven newly cataloged collections have been added to the OASIS database this month, including the Marian Hannah Winter and Rose Winter Memorial Collection of Prints, a rich collection of images documenting the history of all kinds of theatrical performance from the 17th to 20th centuries.
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April 26th, 2013

Houghton publications noted in TLS

Harvard Review issue 43Two recent articles in the Times Literary Supplement highlight the two Houghton journals, Harvard Review and Harvard Library Bulletin. A piece in the April 5th issue discusses Anne Fadiman’s essay in the current Harvard Review on the South Polar Times, a hand-illustrated magazine produced by Robert Scott’s Polar expeditions. For more information, see the full post on the Harvard Review’s blog.

Dennis Marnon, Coordinating Editor of Harvard Library Bulletin, describes that publication’s citation in TLS:

Harvard Library Bulletin, n.s. v.14 no.2 (Summer 2003)In his Times Literary Supplement review (February 1, 2013) of the latest edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Fred R. Shapiro, editor of the rival Yale Book of Quotations (2006), provides some general background information on the history of the BFQ publishing phenomenon, now in its 18th edition. Long thought “to have been drawn from his extensive reading, prodigious memory and a commonplace book,” John Bartlett’s original self-published collection (Cambridge, 1855) in fact relied substantially in form and content (and title) on an immediate predecessor.

Another source was revealed in an article in the Harvard Library Bulletin in 2003, in which Michael Hancher demonstrated that Bartlett’s compilation was heavily derivative of a book published in 1853 in London by John Murray, Handbook of Familiar Quotations Chiefly from English Authors. Bartlett, Hancher shows, borrowed many of the quotations in the Handbook, similarly favoured short verse passages, included the term “familiar quotations” in his title, expressed ambitions in his preface echoing those in the earlier book’s preface, used the same chronological organization, and had a comparable index. “Even the running heads look the same. Probably Bartlett had his printer, Metcalf and Company, model his book on Murray’s.” Hancher determined that the editor of Handbook of Familiar Quotations was Isabella Rushton Preston, an Englishwoman about whom almost nothing else is known.

Shapiro’s adroit summary captures the argument of the HLB article, but leaves for further investigation the richness of the documentation and detail in the piece. Michael Hancher, Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, published his handsomely illustrated article, “Familiar Quotations,” in HLB, n.s. vol. 14, no. 2 (Summer 2003): 13-53. That issue included an additional study of BFQ by Michael David Cohen, then a doctoral candidate in the Department of History, Harvard University: “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations: ‘A Glancing Bird’s Eye View’ by a ‘Morbid Scholiast,'” (pp. 55-74).

April 22nd, 2013

Cheerful Warblers: Songsters in the Harvard Theatre Collection

Cheerful Warbler, or, Juvenile Song Book. York, undated. Songster Collection, ca. 1780-1910 (TCS 89). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Box 40, folder 638.A new finding aid makes available for the first time over a thousand songsters in the Harvard Theatre Collection.

These little books, cheaply produced and modestly priced, mixed traditional pieces of music with popular favorites in a handy pocket-sized format, throwing in recipes, magic tricks and jokes for good measure.

Scheidler's Art of Conjuring Simplified and Songster. New York, undated. Songster Collection, ca. 1780-1910 (TCS 89). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Box 5, folder 78.

Scheidler's Art of Conjuring Simplified and Songster. New York, undated. Songster Collection, ca. 1780-1910 (TCS 89). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Box 5, folder 78.
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April 19th, 2013

What’s New: In Search of Things Proust

Marcel Proust, [A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs]. Corrected proofs (detail), [Paris, 1918?] Houghton p FC9 P9478 918aabThis weekend, expect the smell of madeleines to fill the balmy spring air of Harvard Yard, as Proustians from around the world gather in Cambridge for the conference Proust and the Arts. Coinciding with the centennial of the publication of Swann’s Way, the first book in Proust’s masterwork In Search of Lost Time, the co-organizers of the conference, Christie McDonald, Smith Professor of French Language and Literature in Romance Languages and Literatures and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University; and François Proulx, Lecturer on Comparative Literature at Harvard University, have organized exhibitions and programming to highlight Harvard University’s extraordinary Proust-related holdings.

Houghton Library has mounted an exhibition curated by Proulx, “Private Proust: Letters and Drawings to Reynaldo Hahn” (at the Library’s Amy Lowell Room through April 28th). Other exhibitions include turn-of-the-century photographs from the Harvard Art Museums at the Mather House SNLHTC Gallery, and selections from the Harvard Art Museums’ remarkably Proustian collection of paintings and drawings at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum and in an online exhibition.

There is also a concert, and films. Proust is in the curriculum as well, with French 165, Marcel Proust. For a full description of events, and the conference program, visit

Photo caption: Marcel Proust, [A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs]. Corrected proofs (detail), [Paris, 1918?] Houghton p FC9 P9478 918aab. Included in the exhibition Private Proust: Letters and Drawings to Reynaldo Hahn, in the Amy Lowell Room, Houghton Library, through April 28th.

This post is part of a series called “What’s New.” Throughout the year, Houghton staff members will be blogging about new acquisitions and newly digitized materials. All posts associated with this series may be viewed by clicking on the What’sNew tag.

[Thanks to Leslie Morris, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, for contributing this post.]

April 5th, 2013

You’ve Got Mail: “The Finest Collection of 19th Century Drawings in Private Hands”

Last month Houghton Library acquired a small group of letters and postcards from Charles Ricketts (1866-1931) & Charles Shannon (1863-1937) to the Irish artist and collector Cecil French (1879-1953). These letters were acquired with the Louis Appell Jr. Fund for British Civilization because they are full of current affairs, news and gossip in the world of British art. These letters are now Houghton Library MS Eng 1738.

Ricketts and Shannon were artists and designers and founders of the Vale Press, one of the English private presses inspired by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press; Shannon’s portrait of William Butler Yeats hangs in the Houghton Library Reading Room.

Letter from Charles Rickets to Cecil French, 1928. MS Eng 1738

On 23 March 1928 Ricketts wrote to French about his recent trip to New York:
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April 3rd, 2013

Tickets? Please!

From the perspective of today’s theatregoer, the current method of admission seems like a forgone conclusion: pay ahead of time for a ticket entitling you to a specific seat for a specific performance. But it wasn’t always this way, as evidenced by a wide range of ephemera in the Harvard Theatre Collection. Surveying even one city and time period (London from the Restoration through the late 19th century) is illustrative of a very different set of practices.

In the playhouses, theatregoers pressed together before the performance, often in a tumultuous crowd, to purchase metal checks for the pit and galleries. The Theatre Collection holds many examples of these tokens, including a check for the 1671 season at what is most likely the Bridges Street Theatre, early in the Restoration. After purchase, doorkeepers for the respective sections of the house collected the checks, allowing admittance. The only available seats were on unnumbered benches, and crowds larger than the available seating area were routinely admitted, meaning checks did not necessarily guarantee a seat, let alone a specific one. After many Continental theatres adopted a system of limiting ticket sales to the available seating, some English theatregoers clamored for the same practice, but such accommodations didn’t become standard until 1884.

Metal Check for Bridges Street Theatre, 1671 (TS 553.801)

Unlike the pit and galleries, a seat in one of the boxes could be reserved ahead of time for a percentage of the cost, but those who arrived too late might lose their claim to it, as indicated on an 1820s box seat ticket for Astley’s Royal Amphitheatre.

Box Ticket, Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, Harvard Theatre Collection

The opera houses also used metal checks for admission to the pit and galleries. Ivory season tickets were issued to box subscribers, however, with the names of the subscribers inscribed on the reverse.

Ivory Subscription Ticket, 1794 (TS 553.801)

One type of event did rely on paper tickets issued for a specific performance. Benefit nights allowed recipients to keep a percentage of the night’s profits. The recipients paid for and sold the tickets themselves. Because the proceeds from these sales accounted for a substantial amount of their yearly income, recipients employed a variety of techniques to discourage forgery, such as signing tickets, assigning serial numbers, and affixing seals. Recipients with more income at their disposal could produce elaborate tickets, including ornate engravings, sometimes by notable artists, such as Hogarth or Cipriani.

Benefit Ticket (TS 553.801)

In addition to checks and paper tickets, theatre employees also issued written admission known as “orders.” Orders might be given to influential people and the press, or used to fill out the house on slow nights (hence the term “papering the house”). Performers also gave orders to friends and benefactors, who would by custom support the actor’s benefit performances by purchasing those tickets at a higher than standard price.

Order for Edmund Kean Performance at Drury Lane, 1819 (TS 553.801)

A selection of London theatre tickets will be on display in the Chaucer Case on the ground floor of Houghton Library through April 24th.

April 2nd, 2013

New on OASIS in April

Photo of Russell Meriwether Hughes, aka La Meri. MS Thr 943 (16) Finding aids for 11 newly cataloged collections have been added to the OASIS database this month, including a collection of photos of the dancer and choreographer known as La Meri.
Processed by Michael W. Austin:
Series X. James family photograph albums in the collection: Correspondence and Journals of Henry James Jr. (MS Am 1094)
Processed by Emma Clement (Simmons intern of Suzanne Denison):
Russell Meriwether Hughes Collection of Photographs, Watercolors, and Ephemera, 1920-1988 (MS Thr 943)

A.C. Wheeler Letters from Others, 1868-1960 (MS Thr 950) Keep reading →

April 1st, 2013

April Fun: Peirce’s Puzzler

Riddle: What does a semiotician do for fun?


 For your amusement this April Fools’ Day, we offer a rebus from the papers of American philosopher and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914).

Peirce (pronounced like “purse”), a scholar of astonishingly wide-ranging interests, was best known in philosophy for his theory of “pragmatism,” but he made many other significant contributions to the fields of linguistics, semiotics, logic, and the philosophy of science as well.

And he liked to doodle. Today’s rebus (that is, a puzzle using pictures to represent syllables or words) can be found on a double-sided sheet in a folder filled with pages and pages of Peirce’s doodles.  Rebus writing appears to have been a Peirce family pastime, as implied by the  inscription, “This one is by Charley Jim Mamma & me…drawn by [ditto mark indicating Charley].” This puzzle may date from 1868, when our young doodling philosopher and budding semiotician, “Charley,” would have been 29 years old. (A second companion rebus bears the tiny note “H.H.P. Oct 68.”) “Mamma” is Charles’s mother, Sarah Hunt Mills, wife of Benjamin Peirce, distinguished mathematics professor at Harvard. “Jim” is his older brother James Mills Peirce, a mathematician following in his father’s footsteps. “Me,” and the “H.H.P” of the second rebus, is likely Helen Huntington Peirce, the philosopher’s younger sister.

Kindly, the puzzle masters provided the solution to their rebus, which we print for you below, so as not to give too much away at the start.

Sq. 58 from Charles Sanders Peirce papers, MS Am 1632 (1538)

Sq. 58 from Charles Sanders Peirce papers, MS Am 1632 (1538)

“When we two parted in silence & tears
Half broken hearted to sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek & cold colder thy kiss
Truly that hour foretold sorrow to this.”

[This post contributed by Houghton Reference Assistant, Emily Walhout with thanks to Houghton Reference Assistant/Metadata Assistant Emilie Hardman.]

April 1st, 2013

Auspicious Debuts: “A captive, but a lion yet”

John Brown’s raid against the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, on October 16th, 1859, and his subsequent martyrdom elicited an immediate outpouring of abolitionist sentiment across the Northern states. In Columbus, Ohio, twenty-two-year-old William Dean Howells responded with “Old Brown,” his first separately printed work; the poem was soon reprinted in the Ashtabula Sentinel, an abolitionist newspaper edited by his father. In the poem Howells anticipates Brown’s redemption when some “fearless, future Man, / Shall wash the blot and stain away, / We fix upon thy name to-day.” A unique survival, this broadside version of “Old Brown” varies slightly from the text used by James Redpath in Echoes of Harpers Ferry (1860), an important anthology of writings about Brown. Howells soon afterward wrote a campaign biography for the Republican candidate for president, Abraham Lincoln, and would later serve as Lincoln’s consul to Venice before becoming the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, a successful realist author, and the undisputed “Dean of American Letters.”

William Dean Howells, "Old Brown" (1859) *AC85 H8395 859o
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March 29th, 2013

What’s New: Edward Lear Online

Edward Lear. GELIBOLU [GALLIPOLI] 10 September 1848. MS Typ 55.26 (497)Houghton Library holds the largest collection anywhere of original works by the English author and artist Edward Lear (1812-1888). For the past two years the library has been engaged in a project to digitize all this material. The first phase of the endeavor included Lear’s natural history drawings, which were also the subject of an exhibition, “The Natural History of Edward Lear,” held at the library in 2012, and documented in Harvard Library Bulletin, Volume 22, Numbers 2-3 . The second phase, recently completed, involved the library’s large collection of Lear’s landscape drawings. From the late 1830s until the 1870s Lear travelled widely in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and in India. Everywhere he went, he made rapid sketches of the landscape, drawings he kept in his studio as sources for more finished watercolors or oil paintings. Although estimates of the possible number of these preliminary drawings have ranged as high as 10,000, the only substantial portion of the collection to have survived intact is a group of some 3,530 drawings that was owned by Lear’s friend and patron, Lord Northbrook. When this collection, preserved in two wooden storage cabinets made for Lear himself, came on the market in the 1930s, it was purchased by W.B.O. Field, a major donor to the Harvard Library. In 1942 Field gave it (and many other works by Lear) to Houghton Library, where his collection joined a smaller group of Lear’s works assembled by Philip Hofer, founder and curator of the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts.

Edward Lear. CAIRO. 10 January 1849. MS Typ 55.26 (646)
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