October 30th, 2014


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


In honor of Halloween I thought we share some creepy images that we found recently in a copy of Vu, a French periodical that covers a range of topics concerning France in the early 20th-century.  As the cover attests this issue deals with mysteries and miracles from 1931.  We have a depiction of a man performing magnetism,   p405_le_magnetiseur en transes  a photograph of a healer that accompanies an article about sorcery, witches, and the occult.  p402_le guerisseur

And even a spooky cinematic scene.   p436_cinema

Happy Halloween!

Vu. Paris : Société anonyme “Les illustrés franc̜ais”1928-1940? can be found in Widener’s Collection.

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

October 29th, 2014

Of Rampant Bulls and Scales

As part of a continuing series of lectures and workshops sponsored by Houghton Library and the Standing Committee on Medieval Studies, Dr. Peter Rückert of the Landesarchiv of Baden-Württemberg in Stuttgart visited Harvard the week of October 13th. On Tuesday, October 14th Dr. Rückert presented an illustrated lecture at Houghton entitled “Paper History and Watermarks Research: New Perceptions in Digital Dimensions.” On Thursday, October 16th he led two workshops on the “Material Aspects of Medieval German Manuscripts and Incunabula (for Description and Dating).” Jeffrey Hamburger, Kuno Francke Professor of German Art and Culture in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, welcomed Dr. Rückert at the morning workshop. Dr. Rückert provided a brief introduction on the history of papermaking, the various methods of reproducing watermarks, and their utility in dating and locating early manuscripts and printed books. He also defined several key terms and concepts used in the study of watermarks, such as watermarks as “twins,” variants, and types (e.g., bull’s heads, rampant bulls, scales, coats of arms).

Dr. Peter Rückert leads a seminar at Houghton Library
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October 28th, 2014

Demons and devils

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

Though outnumbered by books on drugs and sexuality, the Santo Domingo Collection’s occult works are nonetheless considerable in number. Featured today are two early works on demonology, one by a French political philosopher and statesman, and the other by an Italian Franciscan priest.

Demonomania 1

Jean Bodin (1530-1596) espoused a number of unconventional views regarding religion and the state: he opposed papal influence over government, and was an early proponent of religious tolerance. On the topic of witchcraft, however, he was less forgiving. De la démonomanie des sorciers was first published in 1580; pictured here is a 1587 revision, one of ten that were printed between 1580 and 1604. In it, Bodin discusses broad concepts such as deals with the devil and the sabbat, as well as histories of individual sorcerers. He further describes at length his recommendations for legal procedure against accused sorcerers. At the time, the Parlement of Paris required one of three forms of evidence in order to proceed to interrogation: tangible evidence such as a written pact with the devil; a confession made freely (which is to say, not under torture); or witness testimony confirming an act of sorcery. Bodin felt that these rules were too strict, and that too many sorcerers were escaping execution: in the Démonomanie , he advocates that these rules be relaxed, under the belief that rumors of sorcery nearly always prove true.
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October 25th, 2014

Poems on their birthdays

Dylan Thomas, photograph by Angus McBean.This weekend involves at least two major 100th birthday parties: the first, on Saturday, is for the poet John Berryman, born on 25 October 1914. Celebrations will extend into Monday, appropriately, for Dylan Thomas, born on 27 October 1914.

Thomas and Berryman have unfortunately legendary personae (either could have been responsible for drinking 18 straight whiskeys and calling it a record); both gave terrific readings when well lit (a few of Berryman’s recordings, including a very early introduction to his 77 Dream Songs, can be heard through the Woodberry Poetry Room’s website, here). Their writing, however, is more interesting than their legends.

One particularly topical box contains the manuscripts for Thomas’s “Poem on his Birthday” (MS Eng 943.11). There are around a hundred inky sheets for this twelve-stanza, rhyme-dense poem; they are mottled with drawings, sums, and the addresses of restaurants. What is striking, however, is how methodical the drafts are: Thomas makes spindly, tilting columns of synonyms and of assonances; one motley inventory includes sirens, tidal, bible, eyeballs, kindness, spires, choirs, and vibrant. He repeatedly writes out the whole alphabet itself (a-b-c-d- and so on), as if to remind himself of available sonic combinations. The pages hold a strangely appealing mixture of step-by-step effort and immediate brilliance: some stanzas seem to have been in place from the first, but are copied dozens of times, with only single words changing.
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October 24th, 2014

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson Archive!

MS Am 1118_5_B155

Launched on October 23, 2013, the Emily Dickinson Archive (EDA) celebrates its first year of operation this week, during Open Access Week.

The site received 1.2 million “hits” from poetry lovers in its first 10 days; after a year, monthly usage averages 10,000 visits and 377,000 page views per month.  About 80% of visitors are from English-speaking countries, with the rest coming from Italy, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, India, Sudan, Pakistan, and other countries world-wide.

Favorite poems vary from month to month, driven by use of EDA in secondary schools as well as college and university courses.  But some poems appear frequently: “Because I could not stop for Death“; “My Life had stood ­ a Loaded Gun­”; “I’m Nobody! Who are you?“; ” ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers–“; “I dwell in Possibility–“; and “The Soul selects her own Society–“.

Houghton Library collaborated with the American Antiquarian Society, Amherst College, Boston Public Library, the Library of Congress, Smith College, Vassar College and Beinecke Library, Yale University, on this first release of the site. Since then, images have been contributed by Dumbarton Oaks (a manuscript believed lost); Morgan Library & Museum, New York Public Library (Berg Collection and Manuscripts and Archives), and The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. More images are in the works, and these will be added in a second release, scheduled for early 2015.

Image above: Emily Dickinson to Susan Huntington Dickinson, [December 1880] Pencil; 1p. Begins: Birthday of but a single pang… Sent to Susan Dickinson on her 19th birthday. JL 679, J 1488, Fr 1541. Houghton Library MS Am 1118.5 (B155).

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

October 23rd, 2014

Mob Stories

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

Mafia at WarDetailing the early 1970s mob scene Mafia at War is an interesting and thorough read.  Published by New York Magazine, this book gives an in depth chronology of the mob bosses from the early 1900s to the early 1970s.  Split into time segments with a focus on who was the current boss at the time, one can follow the violence and death that surrounds the mob.  Mafia at War takes a decidedly negative view of gang warfare, specifically calling out the misconception that mobsters only kill other mobsters.  Presented as a historical overview of mob warfare, this book includes everything from photographs of mafia members to crime scene photos, to beautiful paintings of famous mob hits.  Also included in the back are maps of which mafia holds jurisdiction in each New York City borough as well as in the continental United States.Mafia at War

One of the most interesting sections of this publication is the artists’ depictions of famous mob murders.    A collection of images by painters and illustrators active in New York City at the time, Mafia at War features such artists as Harvey Dinnerstein, James McMullan and Paul Davis.   Each image is accompanied by a story about the murder and the background of the mob boss involved. Mafia at WarMafia at War

The Mafia at war, by Thomas Plate and the editors of New York magazine. With contributions by Nicholas Pileggi [and others] New York New York Magazine Press 1972 is available in Widener Library Collection.

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

October 16th, 2014

A poet, killer, thief, brawler, and vagabond…

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

Francois Villon was all of those things, and most prominently a subversive outsider.  At a time when most poetic works were strongly religious or allegorical Villon wrote with honesty about love and sex, drinking, money problems, and living on the road in 15th-century France.  Many of his works were meant to be read aloud, preferably in a tavern.  He is known to have influenced modern English poetry, particularly Ezra Pound.  This limited edition of Villon’s works and accompanying illustrations by Albert Dubout was published in France around 1933.

The text above is taken from Villon’s poem Bequests, whose premise is that Villon is leaving the city after being spurned by a woman, so he must leave all of his possessions behind.  He details a long list of beneficiaries gifting them with worthless junk and items that he never owned, essentially mocking everyone and everything.  Most of Villon’s poems have a strong dose of social satire and a tone of merry pranksterism.

KIC Image 0013

This shorter poem translates to:

I am Francois, which I find a burden,

born in Paris (near Pontoise),

and from the six-foot rope 

my neck will learn what my ass weighs.

This poem could be read as a direct commentary of Villon’s life since he was indeed condemned to death in November of 1462.  The story goes that he was involved in a brawl where the Pope’s Paris notary was stabbed by a companion so he was sentenced to hang since he had already been jailed three times.  However, Villon appealed the case and his sentence was changed to a 10 year banishment from Paris.  Villon celebrated by writing both a poem taunting the prison clerk and then another lavishly praising the court.  Shortly thereafter he disappeared from public view.

Though it is tempting to look at Villon’s work as completely biographical many scholars contend that he created a mix of factual and fictional information to create this character of Villon featured in his works.  To see more illustrations by Dubout or recite some of Villon’s verse in French you can find this volume at Houghton Library.  Villon (oeuvres) /illustrations de Dubout.Oeuvres. Paris : Gibert Jeune, Librairie d’Amateurs, [1933]. FC.V7195.B933v 

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager and Ryan Wheeler, Rare Book Cataloger, for contributing this post.

October 10th, 2014

D.H. Lawrence on strike

D.H. LawrenceThe Modern Books and Manuscripts department recently acquired the manuscript of D.H. Lawrence’s short story “Her Turn.”

Ten onionskin pages depict a battle of wills between a husband and wife fighting over shares of the husband’s strike pay. The story was timely – Lawrence composed it over a three-day period in March 1912, during a month-long strike in which over a million British coal miners participated.

Lawrence’s story does not delve into the reasons for the strike or advocate for any political change, but the plot’s small domestic battle mirrors the period’s larger social unrest. Current events clearly influenced Lawrence’s work; he wrote two other strike-related stories the same month “The Miner at Home” and “Strike Pay.”

Lawrence, Her Turn

Lawrence originally titled the story “The collier’s wife scores;” this title was crossed out on the manuscript and replaced with “Her turn” when Lawrence revised the story for publication in the Westminster Gazette in September 1913.

The manuscript of “Her turn” joins Houghton’s significant collection of Lawrence’s literary manuscripts, correspondence, and published works.

Images: Undated photograph of D.H. Lawrence, MS Am 1891.24. Manuscript of “Her Turn,” 2004M-43. Gift of Medora Geary, class of 2000.

Thanks to Heather Cole, Assistant Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, for contributing this post.

October 9th, 2014

Art and the Occult

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

Art and Symbols of the OccultJames Wasserman, author, editor, publisher and occultist, gives us Art and Symbols of the Occult.  A disciple of Aleister Crawley’s Ordo Templi Orientis, he has written numerous books on the subject as well as republishing and updating several of Crawley’s works including photographing the Tarot cards from the Thoth Tarot deck.  Wasserman got his literary start at Weiser Books, one of the largest bookstores and publishers in occult literature.  He subsequently founded Studio 31 which offers book production and graphic design and has continued to focus in occult literature.  Wasserman also founded one of Ordo Templi Orientis’s oldest lodges in New York City in 1979.

Art and Symbols of the Occult

Art and Symbols of the Occult explores both typical symbols of the occult such as the Golden Dawn Cross and masonic art, as well as more classic and religious art such as St. George and the Dragon by Raphael and The temptation of St. Anthony by Hieronymus Bosch.  Wasserman covers a wide variety of pieces, ranging from ancient Egyptian art, to the monument at Stonehenge to kabbalah texts.

Art and Symbols of the Occult


Split into several sections on different facets of the occult, Wasserman prefaces each chapter with a discussion of the practice and then offers pages and pages of art he assigns to the categories.  Each image is accompanied by a short blurb about historical context and meaning, an easy enough read for those not versed in art history or the occult.Art and Symbols of the Occult




Art and Symbols of the Occult , Wasserman’s first book, was expanded and rereleased in 2005 as The Mystery Traditions: Secret Symbols and Sacred Art.  The original version Art and Symbols of the Occult / London : Tiger Books International, c1993.  can be found in Widener Library’s collection.

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

October 3rd, 2014

Creepy-crawlies and their tell-tale traces

Robert Hooke, Micographia, schem XXXIII (EC65 H7636 665maa)Unsurprisingly, some of the centuries-old books now in Houghton’s library stacks have fared better over time than others.  There are many factors that impact the breakdown of codex materials, including (but not limited to) natural elements like water, heat, and either too much, or too little, humidity.  All of these deteriorate the components of the codices; ie. paper, leather, ink, adhesives, cloth, and wood.

Another enemy of long-term preservation is bugs, one of which is the purposefully named “bookworm” that leave tiny holes inside of books.  As the name suggests, these insects do indeed eat the wood and leather of the covers and the paper of the pages.  The bugs that leave these holes, however, are not worms, nor is there only one type of “bookworm.”  Rather, the culprits can be one of several types, including the larvae of beetles (Xestobium rufovillosum and Anobium punctatum), paper louses (Trogium pulsatorium), or Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina).

It is also noteworthy that contrary to popular belief, Silverfish usually do not bore into books, but rather eat along the surface of the pages. Also, they prefer to eat adhesives and will often eat the glue used to bind books spines before the paper.
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