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

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

May 3rd, 2013

For Philip Hofer, because he loves Maine

Sarah Orne Jewett. Country By-ways (1887) Typ 870.87.4665The present book is a copy of the fifth edition of Country By-Ways (Typ 870.87.4665) a collection of stories about life and nature in Maine, written by Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909). Its green and brown cloth cover, for the dominant colors of Maine in Jewett’s sketches, was designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman, a close friend of the author. Country By-Way was first published in 1881 by Houghton, Mifflin and Company to the applause of the critics, and it clearly sold well. No wonder, thus, that the “Baltimore and Ohio Employes’ [sic] Free Circulating Library” acquired the present copy for its readers as indicated by the stamp printed on several pages of the book.

Sarah Orne Jewett. Country By-ways (1887) Typ 870.87.4665

Founded in 1885 in Baltimore, this innovative circulating library was intended for the employees of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Books were delivered to users wherever they were located on the Baltimore and Ohio lines within a day of their request.*
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May 1st, 2013

The birth of a score

Researching the publication history of music scores can be a difficult venture. Materials documenting the business end of contracting, engraving or lithographing, proof-reading, and finally printing an edition are often lost to history, but occasionally, a shining gem of documentation will appear out of nowhere. Recently, I had the good fortune to dine with Michael Scott Cuthbert, Associate Professor of Music at MIT. During the course of the meal, he mentioned that he’d once noticed a proof copy of the full score of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots here at Houghton. Readers of this blog will remember my fascination with Henri IV, and as I’d also just cataloged a copy of the first edition full score of Les Huguenots in the Ward Collection, I returned to work the next day determined to find this rare creature. It didn’t take long—and was I ever surprised when I opened the cover!

Meyerbeer, Les Huguenots, *Mus.M5752H.1836 second caption
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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.]

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