July 30th, 2014

“Attribute the faute to my ivel hed, and not to my slothful hande”

Signature of Elizabeth I (pf MS Typ 686)Houghton has in its collection several letters written or signed by Elizabeth I of England. She wrote one of these letters (cataloged as MS Typ 686) in her own hand to her brother Edward VI, then King of England. It is dated April 21, but there is no given year. It is likely, however, that Elizabeth wrote it in 1552 because in it she wishes for her brother improved health, and during 1552 he was sick (possibly with measles and small pox).

To demonstrate her concern, she uses religious imagery: “Moreover I consider that as a good father loves his childe derely dothe punis him scharpely, So god favoring your Maiestie gretly hathe chastened you straitly, and as a father doth it for the further good of his childe, so hath God prepared this for the bettar helthe of your grace.”

Passage from letter of Elizabeth I (pf MS Typ 686)

Despite this heavy sentiment, she ends the letter on a much lighter note that underlines her affection for her younger brother: “And in this hope I commit your Maiestie to his hands. Most humbly craving pardon of your grace that I did write no soner desiring you to attribute the faute to my ivel hed, and not to my slothful hande.”

Elizabeth acknowledges Edward’s sovereignty, but she also voices her regard for his health as his sister by signing the letter “Your majesty’s most humble sister to command, Elizabeth.”

In addition to familial affection, the 1552 letter exemplifies Elizabeth’s education and intellect. Despite her gender, she received a thorough Humanist and Protestant educations through the tutoring of prominent intellectuals. One of these tutors, Roger Ascham, taught her penmanship, as is evidence in the italic script of the letter and her distinctive signature. She further proves her learning by referencing Saint Augustine’s Confessions and the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Houghton Library also has a diplomatic letter drafted, although not written, and signed by Elizabeth from during her reign of Queen in 1588 (MS Eng 711), as well as a deed that she signed in 1569 (MS Am 1304).

[Thanks to Leah Lefkowitz, Reference Assistant, for contributing this post.]

Letter from Elizabeth I of England to King Edward VI (pf MS Typ 686)_Page_2

July 25th, 2014

New acquisitions: Unpublished Robert Gould Shaw letters

RGSRobert Gould Shaw famously wrote more than two hundred letters to members of his family over the course of the Civil War. Five unpublished letters from Shaw to his family, and two letters from Shaw’s sister Susanna to Shaw, have recently been added to Houghton’s collection.

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July 24th, 2014

Mysterious matchbox

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


This particular item which I believe is an artists’ book is quite interesting, published in Paris in 1990 by Ed. Rouleau Libre it was issued as a matchbox measuring 8 x 6 cm and contains a number of objects.  On a folded sheet is a poem by Pierre Mréjen along with a graphic of some sort.  KIC_Image_0002

Little is know about Mréjen he appears to be a poet that produced a number of artists’ books for Les Editions Rouleau Libre.  An additional folded sheet contains two quotations by Henri Michaux and Maurice Blanchot along with small illustrations.  What was most unexpected were the matches, marble, and cigarette that accompanied the folded sheets.  KIC_Image_0004

The work is identified as example no. 11, out of how many we cannot be sure,  and there was little definitive information about this cleverly constructed item.

I did discover that the cigarette is from a German brand called Roth Handle whose identifying hand logo has been recreated on the back of the matchbox with the title of the work.


Part of the Fine Arts Library collection La main espacée. Paris : Rouleau Libre, 1990 can be located in Hollis

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

July 23rd, 2014

John Lindquist Photographic Negatives Project

For the past six weeks, I have had the distinct pleasure of working in the Theatre Collection at Houghton Library, Harvard University as part of a fellowship with the Dance Heritage Coalition, which is supporting eight fellows through an Institute of Museum and Library Services Grant, providing training and practice in dance-related librarianship. My fellowship at Houghton has consisted of creating an inventory of photographic negatives in the John Lindquist Collection in preparation for preservation and digitization.

© The Dance Theatre of Harlem (Arthur Mitchell Co.), 1973. MS Thr 482, Box 17, Dance Theatre of Harlem (Arthur Mitchell Co.), 1973, Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

© The Dance Theatre of Harlem (Arthur Mitchell Co.), 1973. MS Thr 482, Box 17, Dance Theatre of Harlem (Arthur Mitchell Co.), 1973, Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

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July 22nd, 2014

Lasciviousness, libel, and letters

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

As the French Revolution erupted in 1789, the bourgeoisie took up a variety of arms against the aristocracy; among them was literature. Pictured here from the Santo Domingo Collection is La Messaline françoise, a libelous account, published under an obviously false imprint, of the sexual exploits of the “duch… de Pol…”: a contemporary reader would understand this to be Yolande-Martine-Gabrielle de Polastron, the Duchess of Polignac. (The title refers to Valeria Messalina, wife of the Roman emperor Claudius, and another woman in power against whom accusations of promiscuity were levied.)

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July 17th, 2014

Natural Highs!

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


Highs!Although much of the Santo Domingo Collection focuses on illegal and medical drugs, there is some exceptions to these books that suggest other ways of getting that feeling.  Alex J. Packer, Ph.D., an educator and administrator in drug education programs presents the book Highs! Over 150 ways to feel really REALLY good…Without Alcohol or other Drugs….  With various sections including serenity highs, physical and sensuous highs, and social, spiritual and creative highs Packer lays out a variety of ways to alter the way your experience life.   Marketed towards teens, Packer takes every day activities young people might do and suggests changing the way you think of them.

Some suggestions are ones that everyone has heard of and are more run of the mill.  Packer explains the mental benefits of meditation and exercise and suggests adding a new physical routine to your life could really improve it.  Highs!There are also more unusual suggestions like having a silent meal.  “Eat a meal with another person or a group of friends without talking.” Packer also includes variations like: “close your eyes for part of the meal, eat the entire meal with your hands, have participants feed each other, or pick one item like mashed potatoes or ice cream, to eat without hands or utensils (check that no adults are in sight).”

Packer also has other recommendations to appeal to a teenage crowd like showing optical illusions and suggesting one uses those to think about the way they see the world.  Although the idea behind the book isn’t unfamiliar, Packer offers some unconventional tricks to promote a drug and alcohol free life.


Highs! : over 150 ways to feel really, really good… without alcohol or other drugs / Alex J. Packer ; edited by Pamela Espeland ; illustrated by Jeff Tolbert. Minneapolis, MN : Free Spirit Pub., c2000. can be found in Widener’s collection.



Thanks to Emma Clement, Santo Domingo Library Assistant, for contributing this post.

July 17th, 2014

Remembering Eleanor Steber

Eleanor Steber (1914-1990) was a leading soprano at the Metropolitan Opera for over two decades. Today is her 100th birthday.

Over the past weeks this blog has featured items drawn from Steber’s papers in the Harvard Theatre Collection that document two significant collaborations with American composer Samuel Barber: Vanessa (1958) and Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1948). To read more about the collection and Steber’s career, follow the links below. A selection of working scores and photographs will be on display in the Chaucer Case on the ground floor of Houghton Library through September.

Eleanor Steber at 100Steber and Vanessa Steber and Knoxville

Eleanor Steber, n.d. 2006MT-18The B&O “Steber Special” at the depot in Steber’s native Wheeling, W.Va. after she won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. Photograph by Cress-Wheeling, [1 May 1940]. 2006MT-18
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July 11th, 2014

From Amsterdam to New Amsterdam to Cambridge

Commelin, Caspar, 1667?-1731. Beschryvinge van Amsterdam. Neth 3250.3This substantial volume of over 1200 pages was published in Amsterdam in 1693. It is a description and history of that city, replete with engraved views and plans. Though it has been at Harvard for over a century, its notable provenance, evident in a series of inscriptions, has only recently received proper cataloging. An autograph signature on the half-title reads “Joannes Ritzema 1756. N. York.” Johannes Ritzema (1704-1794), born and educated in Holland, was a leading minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in New York, and an original trustee of King’s College (now Columbia University). The religious tracts he authored and had printed in New York and Philadelphia are rare examples of Dutch language works printed in America before 1800.

Commelin, Caspar, 1667?-1731. Beschryvinge van Amsterdam. Neth 3250.3
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July 10th, 2014

He leaps tall buildings in a single bound!

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

My Dog Rex

Well eight foot walls at least!  Meet Rex III, a black and tan Alsatian who was trained to detect dope and help catch criminals.  Rex worked with the Flying Squad, a special crime unit with London’s Metropolitan Police and received several medals for bravery.  My Dog Rex is a biography of this extraordinary police dog written by his handler, Arthur Holman.  Holman not only trained him but fed and sheltered him at the family home.

Rex III was credited with one hundred and twenty-five arrests and even starred in the film Police Dog.  Holman relates that in an effort to help Rex look his best for the film he “…filed down Rex’s nails until they were all the same length, asked my daughter to clean the dog’s teeth more frequently, and gave his coat an extra shine by brushing into it a small quantity of special oils.”

My Dog Rex

Dogs are no strangers to law enforcement, during the Middle Ages money was specifically put aside in villages for bloodhounds who were used to hunt down outlaws.  Bloodhounds known as “slough dogs” in Scotland are believed to be the genesis of the word “sleuth.”  One of the first instances of the police using dogs to combat crime in the 19th-century was during the investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders.  In 1954 the Metropolitan Police Squad in London established its current program which still actively uses police dogs today.

My dog Rex ; the story of police dog Rex III, told by his handler. New York, W. Funk [1958, c1957]. HV8025 .H6 1958. can be found in Widener Library’s collection in the Hollis catalog.

My Dog Rex

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

July 9th, 2014

A gift, regifted, now returned

The works of the late Right Honorable Joseph Addison, 1761. EC7.Ad257.C761w (B)One of my jobs as Curator is to acquire new books for the collection. This is one of the worst books I’ve ever bought. It’s a broken set, missing one of its four volumes. Some of the pages are damaged, and we already have three copies of this edition. So why did I buy it? Provenance–specifically, its important connection to Harvard history, and the worst moment in the history of the Harvard College Library.

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