November 26th, 2014

Circulating libraries

I recently had the great pleasure of assisting a Jane Austen scholar who was looking for book evidence of English circulating libraries during Austen’s lifetime. At first I thought that the assignment would be a piece of cake, since I’d run across a fair amount of 18th and 19th century French subscription library evidence in my music cataloging, as French music publishers of the time often maintained active lending libraries. But soon I discovered that what I had thought would be a straightforward research project would teach me far more about these libraries than I expected.

M1500.M75 F4 1785 cover

M1500.M75 F4 1785 cover

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November 25th, 2014

Urdu Punch

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

Punch, the seminal British satirical magazine, is credited with popularizing the use of ‘cartoon’ to mean a comic drawing, rather than a preliminary sketch for a painting or tapestry. During the time of the British Raj, a number of publications throughout India adopted Punch’s model of political cartoons and satirical commentary; the first of these was The Oudh Punch (also cited as The Awadh Punch), an Urdu magazine founded in 1877 and based in the northern city of Lucknow. Many others, such as The Delhi Punch and The Punjab Punch, followed suit. They employed the sardonic devices of the original Punch to skewer and criticize British imperial leadership; nonetheless, a British author, Archibald Constable, saw fit to produce this selection of cartoons with English explications, putting the cartoons forward as a cultural curiosity, and as evidence of the Indian sense of humor.

Oudh 1

A selection from the illustrations which have appeared in the Oudh Punch from 1877 to 1881, then, is an interesting window into its period: original illustrations with Urdu text  are accompanied by Constable’s English notes, which provide political and cultural context, and a general introduction and postface. Constable regards the cartoons with the optimistic authority of the colonialist; their original authors may have offered differing descriptions. The volume’s inclusion in the Santo Domingo Collection is on the basis of one of its plates: “An opium den in Lucknow”, which depicts the range of users from intoxication to catatonia; the Oudh Punch himself draws back the curtain on a prostrate opium eater.

Oudh 2

Oudh 3

A selection from the illustrations which have appeared in the Oudh Punch from 1877 to 1881: NC1718.O8 1881.

Thanks to rare book cataloger Ryan Wheeler for contributing this post.

November 20th, 2014

Myths of London

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

London walkaboutAlthough at first glance London Walkabout by Andrew Collins looks like a typical pamphlet for a tourist it actually is much more unusual.  Subtitled “Your guide to discovering the myths and legends of ten mystical sties in and around the City of London, accessible in one easy walkabout,” this pamphlet promises a whole lot more than a standard tour.   The ten sites include: the Tower of London, the London Stone, the Temple of Mithras, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Ludgate Hill, the Church of St. Martin’s-within-Ludgate, St. Bride’s Church Fleet St., the Church of St. Dunstan’s-in-the-West Fleet St., the Temple Church and St. Clement Danes Aldwych.London walkabout

Each site has its own section which includes basic historical facts as well as myths and stories about the supernatural occurrences at the site.   A list of famous ghosts at the Tower of London, an explanation of the Dianic Cult at St. Paul’s Cathedral  and a section on psychic work at the Temple Church are some of the more intriguing stories told.  Essentially arranged in a geographic line, Collin’s gives a walking guide that takes about 5 hours to complete and can be done entirely on one’s own.  Details of what to look for at each site are included with the stories as well as pictures of each site for historical comparison and identification.

London walkabout

Andrew Collins, a prolific writer on the supernatural and occult, leads you through each site with unusual insights and history.  Still an active writer today, he also does book tours and signings for his many mythological texts.  Several of his books are available at Widener including Beneath the pyramids : Egypt’s greatest secret uncoveredThe Cygnus mystery : unlocking the ancient secret of life’s origins in the cosmos and The knights of Danbury.  London walkabout /by Andrew Collins, Wickford : Earthquest, 1984 (1986 [printing]) is also available at Widener Library.

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

November 13th, 2014

Shall I read your future?

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

Death.  Typically depicted as a skeleton with a sickle, one might suppose that if this card appeared in a tarot reading that you should prepare for an untimely demise, but it rarely signifies a physical death.  Tarot card readings are a highly subjective topic depending on what you believe, but according to A.E. Waite, a recognized authority on the occult and tarot, the Death card usually means an end to a cycle or a transition into a new stage in your life.

Le Taro sacerdotal : reconstitué d’après l’astral et expliqué pour ceux qui savent déja published in 1951 consists of 22 beautiful lithograph cards, most of which are hand-colored with watercolors. The cards consist of an iconographic image with a corresponding description of the archetype below it, one of the exceptions being Death.  

IMG_0003 IMG_0004

You can see that the style of the description scripts vary according to the image.  Again according to Waite the Hermit represents guidance, introspection, solitude, and seclusion.  The Hanged Man is based on a pittura infamante, a shameful image of a traitor being punished in a manner common at the time in Italy.  Waite suggests the Hanged Man is associated with sacrifice, passivity, contemplation, and inner harmony. 

The illustrator of these cards, Lucien Laforge, is also known for his illustrative work in magazines including LinkLa Charrette : “Charrie” Aujourd’hui which was a short lived serial publication in 20th-century France.  Courtesy of the JMSD collection we have the very last issue no. 24 in Widener and it is possible we may uncover more as we continue to catalog.

Hoping to find more information about Laforge I discovered the Database of Modern Tarot Art.  Adam MacLean, who is an enthusiast for alchemical texts and symbolism, is creating a database from his own collection of tarot decks.  They are currently sorted by geographic regions though there is also a keyword search function.  The description of the entries vary depending on the information MacLean has on the specific deck, but it is a pretty robust database with at least two images from the deck for each entry.   

le taro 3_edit

Le Taro sacerdotal : reconstitué d’après l’astral et expliqué pour ceux qui savent déja / Lucien Laforge [and] André Godin : prints, 1951.  MS Fr 606 can be found at the Houghton Library.

Thanks to Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager and Susan Wyssen, Manuscript Cataloger, for contributing this post.

November 11th, 2014

Crowley and the Beast

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

The Santo Domingo Collection continues to bolster Harvard’s library of works by author and occult leader Aleister Crowley. These range from substantive books on magic to pamphlets containing individual poems (one of these, titled “Tyrol”, is a condemnation of Mussolini for his 1929 prohibition of that name as part of his Italianization of the region). Crowley’s grandiose, egotistical mode is in evidence throughout, but so is his sardonic sense of humor. That humor is emblemized in his dedications, forewords, and other front matter, at turns combative, boastful, and wryly self-effacing. Two examples appear in this post. The first appears in The sword of song, called by Christians the book of the Beast. This was Crowley’s first publication in which he referred to himself as “the Beast”, in defiance of his critics, and according to Crowley, was impeded by boycotts from British publishers. (The publisher on the imprint is the Society for Religious Truth, Benares, although subsequent Society publications would give Inverness as their location.) The dedication roundly dismisses these opponents of Crowley’s poetic vision.

Crowley redux 1

The second example is Ambergris, a selection of poetry. In its preface, Crowley outlines the selection process in a passage both self-deprecating and resentful, making reference to the public’s underappreciation of his work.

Crowley redux 2

The sword of song: EC9.C8863.904s, HOLLIS number 14166213

Ambergris: EC9.C8863.910a, HOLLIS number 2915207

Thanks to rare book cataloger Ryan Wheeler for contributing this post.

November 7th, 2014

Re-Sounding Wallace Stevens

Recording of Wallace Stevens reading "Auroras of Autumn"“It is/ A sound like any other. It will end,” writes Wallace Stevens in “It Must Change,” a sequence whose audible existence (at least as rendered in the poet’s voice) had until this Fall to a certain extent ceased.

The lacquer microgroove disc of “It Must Change,” recorded 60 years ago this month, on October 8, 1954, at Transradio Studio on Boylston Street in Boston—under the auspices of the Woodberry Poetry Room (and its then curator Jack Sweeney)—appears to have been accidentally left out of the HOLLIS catalog entry for this series of studio recordings, along with its Side B, which features a complete and subtly re-sequenced reading of “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven.” *

The Poetry Room, which has focused its preservation efforts primarily on the fragile format of reels—and had digitized what it thought were the sum total of Stevens’ recordings that day—recently refocused its efforts on its collection of over 2,000 uncataloged lacquer discs. Our phonodisc preservation work happened to overlap with the emergence of a new technology being tested by the NEDCC (Northeast Document Conservation Center), which invited us to participate in a pilot study of its remarkable optical digitization technology known as IRENE. IRENE is a touchless technology that permits archives (and individuals) to preserve broken, fragile, even gauged discs and cylinders without the risky intervention of a stylus.

Recording of Wallace Stevens reading “It Must Change"

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November 6th, 2014

Street Art in the 1970s

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

The faith of graffitiThe Faith of Graffiti presents the reader with beautiful full-spread photographs of street art by Jon Naar and Mervyn Kurlansky with an accompanying text by Norman Mailer.   By keeping the text separate in the center of the book, the reader is able to fully immerse himself in the photographs and experience the depth of street art as an exhibit.  Mailer’s description of the art and history of graffiti draws the reader in further with anecdotes and stories about the great street artists.  The definitive book on graffiti and street art in their early incarnation in the 1970s, this book is sure to interest aficionados as well as those just browsing the topic.The faith of graffiti

Norman Mailer, a novelist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, pens the essay portion of this book, delving deep into the history of street art and its cultural importance.  The essay is art in itself, pairing more traditional forms of art with stories of graffiti artists to weave a narrative about the impact of this new art form.  The faith of graffitiJoined by photographers Mervyn Kurlansky and Jon Naar, with their images of hundreds of examples of street art around New York City, The Faith of Graffiti is an intriguing and thorough experience.  Their  eye for photography allows the reader to understand both the intricacies of graffiti as well as the environment it lives in by taking large scale landscape photos and juxtaposing them with detailed close ups.

A first edition copy signed by all three authors is available in the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection at Widener Library.  The faith of graffiti. Documented by Mervyn Kurlansky and Jon Naar. Text by Norman Mailer. New York, Praeger [1974]

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

November 1st, 2014

New on OASIS in November

Finding aids for three newly cataloged collections, all part of the Fredric Woodbridge Wilson Collection of Theater, Dance and Music, have been added to the OASIS database this month:

Processed by Ashley M. Nary
Photographs of 20th-Century Theatrical Productions and Motion Pictures, 1901-1994 (MS Thr 1042)

Sheet Music Featuring Songs from Jacques Offenbach’s Operas, 1868 and undated (MS Thr 1043)

Signed Sheet Music by European Composers, 1854-1916 (MS Thr 1044)

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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