August 27th, 2015

The Life of Jesus?

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

Img0002Léo Taxil was actually the pen name for Gabriel-Antoine Jogand-Pagès, a man born in Marseille who was educated by Jesuits in the mid 19th-century.  He became extremely disillusioned with the Catholic faith during his time among them and eventually became known for his anti-Catholic writings of books like La vie de Jesus.  The volume was originally published in 1882 by his own house, Libraire Anti-Clericale, and our copy is from 1900.

The volume points out from Taxil’s perspective the errors, inconsistencies, and false beliefs in a satiric style about the life of Jesus.  It has direct quotes from the Gospels along with Taxil’s critiques.

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La Vie de Jésus par Leo Taxil, dessin de Pepin : [affiche] / [Pepin] - 1This color poster is presumably promoting the volume and appears to take Taxil’s criticism and disdain of the Catholic Church even further if you look at the image compared to the title page of the volume.  The comic illustrations in the text are by someone named Pépin and enhance this critical viewpoint.

Taxil is also famous for what is known as the Taxil Hoax.  The Hoax centered on Taxil’s fake conversion to the Roman Catholic religion after a long history of anti-clerical publications.  After this conversion he began publishing materials accusing Freemasons of being in league with Satan by making up eyewitness accounts of their participation in satanic rituals.  The amazing part is that this hoax went on for a little over ten years from the point where Taxil apparently underwent his “conversion” until he confessed on the front page of Le Frondeur, a Parisian newspaper, in 1897.  Taxil later stated that he made up such grotesque accounts to mock the Freemasons, but to his surprise people took his outlandish and outrageous statements as truth.

What is even more unbelievable is that even in present day the information and accounts from Taxil’s books are used in other anti-Masonic writings as authentic proof, even though Taxil admitted that he made it all up over 100 years ago!  It would appear that the zeal of persecuting Freemasons completely erased any need for checking the authenticity of their source material.

If you want to read the original French text of La vie de Jésus /par Léo Taxil ; dessins comiques par Pépin. Paris : Librairie Anti-Clericale, [©1900] BT304.95.T39 1900 it can be found in Historical Collections at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Julio Mario Santo Domingo Project Manager and Nell Carlson from Andover-Harvard Theological Library, for contributing this post.

August 21st, 2015

Within the Cover of a Manuscript

One joy of working with pre-modern manuscripts comes from the process of discovery. These can be great—as the finding of a lost work—and small—an amusing marginal note left by a medieval reader. My discovery came on the first day of the four weeks I spent at the Houghton Library last summer in an unsuspecting manuscript.

Houghton’s MS Syriac 108, folder 18, consists of six sullied, disordered folios. The folios are pierced by three holes on one side, and some have other folio sheets pasted on top of them. These features indicate that these folios had been repurposed for the cover of a later manuscript. A catalogue description of the manuscript suggested that it contained one letter by the sixth-century literary poet Jacob of Serugh (451–521 CE). I intended to collate this letter with the modern edition of his works and move quickly on to other projects.

MS Syriac 108 (18)

But, as I began work, I found far more than I could have anticipated. A few weeks of research enabled me to identify six letters of Jacob of Serugh’s letters preserved in these six folios along with four additional works. This represents the third largest collection of this renowned author’s letters and the most extensive collection after the eighth century. One of the six letters is, in fact, an excerpt that was excised for its concise theological expression and given the new title of “The Creed of Mar Jacob.”

Pre-modern manuscripts show how communities engaged in creative ways with literary works from the past. Paying attention to a seemingly insignificant manuscript, such as MS Syriac 108 (18), invites us into the reading communities that commissioned, produced, and read this manuscript. Paying attention to small things in research can lead to discoveries, even within the cover of a manuscript.

[Thanks to Philip Michael Forness, a PhD candidate at Princeton Theological Seminary and a 2014-15 Houghton Visiting Fellow, for contributing this post.]

August 20th, 2015

Observer-ing the 60s

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

Img0013Color supplements to established newspapers were first produced in the 1960s and are believed by many to have changed the face of newspapers.  Many thought that a color magazine would cheapen the journalistic integrity of the Observer, a British publication, but economic realities soon forced them to join the crowd.  The Observer began producing color supplements in 1964 amidst a new world of prosperity and possibility which seemed easily attainable with the great machine of advertising behind it.   The first issue was 64 pages, 30 of which were in full color and half of the magazine featured advertisements for products like cars, sofas, whiskey, anti-wrinkle creams, and dishwashers.  This particular issue of the Observer supplement is from December 3, 1967 and really seems to speak to the chaotic nature of this time period when the younger generation often appeared to the older as a riot of symbols and images.

Img0015Within this issue “Poster Power” was an article that explored how the new artists of the Underground adopted the disposable poster as their medium of expression.  This particular scene was staged by Peter Blake, a painter, and Jan Howarth, and you can’t help but be struck by the diversity and variety of the posters.  They are in essence trying to capture the spirit of the ’60s by displaying the artistic choices of the people involved and the emerging pop art movement of the day.  If one wanted to know about the music scene this article about Jimi Hendrix chronicles his performances in England and his “dangerously” wild spirit.

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To get a closer look at the other color articles or get a sense of popular advertising from the 1960s look for Observer [London : s.n.,1964- c1987] which can be found in Widener Library.

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


August 19th, 2015

King Luckieboy Prepares for His Debut

The “King Luckieboy’s Party” graphite on tracing paper drawings came to the Weissman Preservation Center conservation lab in preparation the Walter Crane exhibition (which runs September 21st-December 19th) primarily because the drawings were at risk for damage due to the housing.

Drawing #8, recto, before treatment.  Torn corner is visible at top right.

Drawing #8, recto, before treatment. Torn corner is visible at top right.

The treatment, however, unexpectedly uncovered what may be evidence of the original intent of the drawings which had been hidden since they were placed in the housing around one hundred or so years ago. The eight tracing paper drawings were each originally spot adhered at all four corners to a single page of a four folio paper booklet. Over time, the adhesive had become desiccated and, as a result, a number of drawings had a corner or two which had detached from the booklet page while two had become completely detached. This put the pieces at risk for damage as the lightweight tracing paper drawings would either flop or slide around as the booklet pages were turned. This method of attachment also caused strain to the tracing paper, particularly at the corners, which led to the corner of one drawing tearing off completely (see before treatment photo).

Drawing #8, verso, after treatment, detail.  The lines that appear darker are on the verso and those that appear lighter are on the recto.

Drawing #8, verso, after treatment, detail. The lines that appear darker are on the verso and those that appear lighter are on the recto.

The decision was made to remove the drawings, which was done by carefully sliding a microspatula in between the tracing paper and booklet page and gently releasing the corner from the adhesive layer. This made the verso of the drawings accessible for the first time and made visible drawn lines made with thinner, harder graphite which traced the drawing on the recto. This was a common technique used for transferring a drawing to a woodblock and was most likely the original purpose for this set of tracing paper drawings.

Thanks to Karen Walter, Senior Paper Conservation Technician for Special Collections for contributing this post.

August 14th, 2015

Early Home Entertainment: Engelbrecht’s Miniature Theatres

The Harvard Theatre Collection has recently acquired three works by Martin Engelbrecht, an eighteenth-century engraver and printer. He is perhaps best known for the series of intricate, hand-colored prints he created, designed to form theatrical scenes when viewed in peepshows.

A form of entertainment very popular in Europe by the mid-18th century, peepshows could be viewed and displayed in the comfort of one’s own home. A peepshow consisted of a set of pictures arranged in sequence in a box, to be viewed through a hole set into one end (with or without a lens, depending on the design). The boxes ranged in size; some were large enough to rest vertically on the floor and serve also as pieces of decor, while others could be lifted to one’s eyes for a horizontal viewing. The effect of the boxes was to showcase a single scene that deepened into a multi-layered, one-point perspective.

 Praesentation eines ruinierten und verzauberten Schloss. (TS 562.300.18)

Praesentation eines ruinierten und verzauberten Schloss. TS 562.300.18

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August 13th, 2015

Hi-Brew Beer

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


Interested in brewing your own “special beer”?  Then this book could be for you!  Beer making has been going on for thousands of years and the Unknown Brewer, who is brewmaster of Hi-Brewers decided to share his knowledge with the world back in the early 80s, to great success (according to the editor), but when they went to reprint more copies there was pressure from the government so the book was in a holding pattern for 14 years until they found a printer.  During that time U.B. revised the book into this current edition.

The book includes three parts : Setting up, The Recipes, and Brewing Tips.  Setting up describes history, ingredients, equipment, cleanliness, and marijuana.  The recipe section describes such types of beer as Potted Porter, Pot-Pale Ale, Double Headed Buzzer, and Headwiser.

The recipes move from simple to more complex as you progress throughout the book.  It also contains handy labels with easy perforation so that one can rip them out and then affix it to the beer bottles once you have made the beer of your dreams.


Marijuana beer : how to make your own hi-brew beer /as told to Ed Rosenthal by U.B.Oakland, CA : Quick American Archives, c1996 can be found in Schlesinger Library’s collection.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Julio Mario Santo Domingo Project Manager, and Erin Ellingham at Schlesinger Library, for contributing this post.

August 10th, 2015

“Shine on my love in all her ways”

MS Am 3030 recto (detail)This intriguing piece of vernacular art, recently acquired by Houghton, tells a tale of heartsick woe from late 18th century New England. We know little about the author beyond his initials, E.W., and that he apparently created this piece after the object of his affections turned down his proposal of marriage. This item, known as a “love token” offers pleas for his proposal to be reconsidered, and that the universe keep his beloved safe in his absence.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

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August 6th, 2015

International man of mystery??

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

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I came across this French volume the other day and assumed it was about some sort of military hero, but as I took a closer look at the cover of the book I noticed that he was apparently a Swiss officer, a Swiss diplomat, a French officer, and a vagabond??  So who was Hans Ormund Bringolf?  Clearly my interest was piqued though I couldn’t find much reputable information only vague theories and scant biographical sketches.  From these sources a picture emerged of a man who seemed to go in out and of military service while having a number of sketchy dealings.

Bringolf was first in the Swiss military cov1_0018while studying the law and earned the nickname “Lieutenant Blessed” because he had been declared prematurely dead on several occasions while on maneuvers, presumably due to his recklessness.  After earned his law degree he joined the Swiss Diplomatic service during which time he forged some checks and was

cov1_0017 expelled in 1904.  To avoid prosecution he went to America where he was a commander of a U.S. police contingent in the Philippines, though he was later jailed for fraud in Peru.   After he was released he went back to Germany where he pretended to be Baron von Tscharner, was found out and served another prison sentence.  During World War I he served in the French army in Serbia where he earned another nickname “The Lion of Manastir” cov1_0020 for his audacious behavior on the front.  This supposedly inducted him in the Legion of Honor.  However it wasn’t long before he was caught up in more fradulent actitivies.

Eventually he settled in Hallau where he wrote his memoir, this version was edited by Blaise Cendrars and translated by Paul Budry.  It would be interesting to see how Bringolf presents himself in this book for it seems more likely that a description of him as “criminal” is more apt than vagabond.  To explore his interpretation of his life story you can find this volume in Widener’s collection.

cov1_0016Feu le lieutenant Bringolf. [Traduction de Paul Budry. Version de Blaise Cendrars]. Paris, Au sans pareil, 1930.

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


August 1st, 2015

New on OASIS in August

Finding aids for five newly cataloged collections, as well as a preliminary box list for one new acquisition, were added to the OASIS database this month, including a collection of watercolors by Edward Lear (an example at left). Lear Edward. Mount Sinai, 1869. MS Typ 55.28 (13)Processed by Caroline Duroselle-Melish (with the assistance of Bonnie B. Salt):
Edward Lear Studio Watercolors, 1848-1884 (MS Typ 55.28, TypDr 805.L513)

Finding aid produced by Emilie Hardman (with the assistance of Bonnie B. Salt):
Charles S. Peirce Papers, 1787-1951 (MS Am 1632)

Processed by Ashley M. Nary:
Manuscript Music by British, American, and European Composers, 1793-1950 (MS Thr 1144)

Processed by Bonnie B. Salt:
T. S. Eliot Family Papers, 1896-1958 (MS Am 3041)

Marion Angeline Howlett Papers, 1900-1972 (MS Thr 1145)

The following collection has a new preliminary box-list now on OASIS:

Processed by Melanie Wisner:
Fernand Labori and Marguerite Labori Papers, circa 1860-1957 (MS Fr 663)

August 1st, 2015

Tracts of Zion

Zion 3Cataloging was recently completed on a collection of tracts and other publications by John Ward (1781-1837), the Irish mystic who later rechristened himself Zion, and whose career as a prophet was distinguished by an idiosyncratic reading of scripture. Ward’s early life was spent as a shipwright and shoemaker, attended by relative disinterest in religion; he experienced a conversion, however, upon his discovery of the works of the recently-deceased prophet Joanna Southcott, which he began to preach.

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