May 21st, 2015

Magical Plants

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

MandrakeThe mandrake root is often referenced in mythical texts and stories, with many powerful magical powers ascribed to it.  The root can resemble human limbs and rumor is that when it is pulled from the ground it lets out a blood curdling scream that can kill anyone who hears it.  In the introduction, Leslie Shepard tells the myth of how to remove the root. Mandrake

“You had to stop your ears with wax, expose enough of the plant to tie it to a dog, then incite the animal to pull the mandrake, the dog dying in the process.  After that the plant was safe to handle and had various magical properties.”  The root was clearly thought to be a very powerful magical object if people were willing to risk death to obtain it!  Although the plant does have mildly medical qualities, in ancient Rome it was used as an anesthetic and was later used to treat rheumatism, it is in fact a very dangerous plant as the berries contain a very potent poison.Mandrake

This book, The Mystic Mandrake, follows the history of the plant for 3,000 years, from ancient civilizations to current times both looking at the medical and scientific aspects of the plants as well as addressing the magic and superstition that surrounds the root.  Long considered an aphrodisiac, many herbalists discuss the different male and female incarnations of the plant.  Written by C.J.S. Thompson, the curator of the museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, this book is well researched and thorough.  Thompson looks at different literary references, including Shakespeares’ Antony and Cleopatra, as well as historical documents and objects to weave his story about the magical plant.  MandrakeThompson wrote extensively on plants and poisons, as well as the links between the medical world and the magical.  Several other of Thompson’s books can be found at Harvard including The Quacks of Old London, Magic and healing, and Poisons and poisoners, with historical accounts of some famous mysteries in ancient and modern timesThe Mystic Mandrake is part of the Santo Doming Collection and can be viewed at Widener Library.



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

May 14th, 2015

Youth quake!

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

IMG_0052  What’s the younger generation coming to? 
This is a question that parents have been asking probably since the dawn of time.  However it is especially interesting when looked at through the lens of the 1960s.  The 60’s was such a time of discovery, change, and upheaval that the emergence of a strong voice for young people was almost a foregone conclusion.  Reporters and photographers of United Press International and Cowles turned to kids in high school, college, and other popular hangouts in order to tune into this new voice in the volume Youth quake.  Young people were asked about music, religion, sex, civil rights, politicians, money, books, and drinking to name just a few of the covered topics.  Then they wrote a series of articles to report the findings of these conversations.
The book covers what you might expect detailing drug trips and the sex revolution, but it also focuses in on serious minded youths that were committed to making a better life for themselves as well as the world.  One of the articles points out that the Peace Corps, which was established in the 1960s, is one of the greatest achievements of this “serious minded youth.”  IMG_0056  Another interesting section is a series of articles that fall under Conversations Parent’s Never Hear… These range from topics such as communication or lack thereof between father and son and one story of being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war.  However the book doesn’t take itself too seriously and details the fashion, activities, and popular trends of the day entitled The Out and the In.

IMG_0054   IMG_0053IMG_0055
To learn more about the opinions of young people in the 1960s take a look at Youth quake. [New York], [Cowles Education Corp.], [1968] HQ796.Y6 1968 which can be found in Widener’s collection.

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

May 8th, 2015

A surprising Scandinavian lithograph

Carl Rothlieb. Beskrifning öfver Skokloster (Stockholm, 1819). Harvard Library’s holdings in Scandinavian imprints are extensive. Quite aware of this, Wake Forest University recently gifted to Harvard a small but rich collection of Scandinavian books, including autographed copies of Karen Blixen first editions, unique 18th century imprints, and unusual 19th century military manuals.

One volume seems diminutive on the surface. Carl Rothlieb’s Beskrifning öfver Skokloster (Description of Skokloster) (Stockholm: Deleen, 1819) is 20 centimeters tall, contains 102 pages, and is modestly bound in contemporary brown paste-paper covered boards. However, the first opening is immediately intriguing and turns out to be quite remarkable. Two lithographs face one another – one of the church in Skokloster and the other a landscape entitled “Utsigt af Sko Klosters Slott och Kyrka” The latter is signed “C. Müller.”

Alois Senefelder invented lithography in Germany in 1796. He was assisted in his experiments by a small band of craftsmen, one of whom was Carl Müller. The early European expansion of this clearly useful art was bumpy due to contentious patent and licensing battles and the Napoleonic Wars – but it was also quick. Swedish inventors tried to take advantage of it almost as soon as it appeared, but it was not until the 1817 arrival of Müller and a colleague, Ludwig Fehr, in Stockholm that lithography took root in Scandinavia. The two established their press in April 1818 and were soon busy producing music, landscapes, and fashion prints for high-brow and popular consumption.

Konst och Nyhets Magasin för Medborgare af alla Klasser 1819. Stockholm, 1819
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May 7th, 2015

The Problem with Pills

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

Goofballs and Pep PillsAt first glance Let’s talk about Goofballs and Pep Pills seems like a funny comic book akin with much of the satirical pamphlets in the Santo Domingo Collection.  However, despite the pen and ink cartoons illustrating this book, it is actually a booklet about the dangers of certain prescription drugs and LSD.  It is a rather bizarre mix of very simple explanations such as, “Nausea (sick to stomach)” or “Delirium, hallucinations (imagining things – pink elephants, etc.)” and excerpts from serious medical studies on the drugs.  Although there are many consequences of drug abuse listed in this book, the end section focuses exclusively on the dangers of driving while using these prescription or illegal drugs.  It seems as though this book is geared to the casual addict or young people who do not realize that abusing prescription pills is a possibility.  The addition of LSD in this collection is surprising based on the way the drugs are described and the intended audience, but Curtis does explain that LSD does have some legitimate medical uses.Goofballs and Pep Pills

Goofballs and Pep PillsLindsay R. Curtis was an OB-GYN based in Utah and wrote extensively both on reproductive topics as well as texts about substance abuse.  He authored a newspaper column titled “For Women Only” and the list of books in his biography at the end of Goofballs and Pep Pills includes titles such as Smoking OR Health? And Glue-Sniffing: Big Trouble in a Tube. His most famous book is titled Pregnant and Lovin’ it.  Many of his books are also illustrated with cartoons and are aimed at the lay reader.

Goofballs and Pep PillsPregnant and lovin’ it / by Lindsay R. Curtis and Yvonne Coroles; illustrated by Paul Farber is available in Schlesinger’s collection.  My body, my decision! : what you should know about the most common female surgeries / Lindsay R. Curtis, Glade B. Curtis, Mary K. Beard ; illustrations by Paul Farber and Let’s talk about drugs / by Lindsay R. Curtis are also available at Harvard Libraries.  LinkLet’s talk about goofballs and pep pills, including tranquilizers and LSD, by Lindsay R. Curtis. Illustrated by Dean Hurst, part of the Santo Doming Collection, is available at Widener Library.


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

May 1st, 2015

New on OASIS in May

Finding aids for eleven newly cataloged collections, three substantially revised finding aids, and a preliminary box list for one collection were added to the OASIS database this month, including substantial work in preparation for an ongoing project to digitize much of Houghton’s holdings of Colonial American history.

Processed by Irina Klyagin:
George Barbier Costume Designs, undated (MS Thr 1092)

Collection of Set and Costume Designs for Ballet, 1942-2004 (MS Thr 1093)

Processed by Jennifer Lyons:
Victorian Plays and Librettos, 1770-1928 (MS Thr 1094)

Processed by Ashley M. Nary:
Americana Scrapbook, 1782-1902 (MS Am 889.435)

Processed by Bonnie B. Salt:
John Jeffries Papers, 1768-1963 [reformatted old cataloging] (MS Am 1220, 1220.9-.13)

Paul Mascarene Papers, 1728-1745 (MS Am 813)

Phillips Brooks and Brooks Family Papers, 1750-1917 [reformatted and expanded old cataloging] (MS Am 2022)

Increase Moseley Diaries, 1780-1794 (MS Am 1902)

Benjamin Wadsworth Sermons, 1710 (MS Am 1173)

Henry Hulton Letter Books, 1768-1780 (MS Can 16)

Ebenezer Bridge Papers, 1740-1792 (MS Am 1186)

John Clarke Estate and Other Papers, 1752-1922 (MS Am 888)

Melville Family Papers, 1787-1863 [reformatted and expanded old cataloging] (MS Am 1233)

Processed by Susan Wyssen:
T. E. Lawrence Correspondence with Siegfried Sassoon and E. M. Forster, 1919-1935 (MS Eng 1773)

The following collections have new preliminary box-lists now on OASIS:

Processed by Melanie Wisner:
Randall Thompson Papers and Family Papers, circa 1903-1980 (85M-62, 85M-69, 85M-70, 98M-29)

April 30th, 2015

Feel a librarian today

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


Before Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert there was a man named Alan Abel.  Actor, writer, filmmaker, comedian, jazz musician and professional prankster these are all the many faces of Abel.  For the past half-century Abel has been pranking the media and the world and it all began in 1951 with S.I.N.A.  The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals had an important mission- to clothe all animals for the sake of modesty.  SINA-1It began as a tounge-in-cheek commentary on censorship in America, but the media went crazy for S.I.N.A. which many took seriously and this is when Abel realized that with little evidence and a straight face he could convince people of this absurd idea.

Thus began a long career of creating hoaxes some small and many much more elaborate.  There was the time that Abel faked his own death and had his obituary published in the New York Times.  The story that was published said that he had a heart attack while skiing in Utah scouting locations for a movie called Who’s Going to Bite Your Neck, Dear, When All of My Teeth are Gone?  Another hoax involved Jenny McCarthy who in 1997 had a controversial ad for Candies featuring her sitting on a toilet.  JENNYMCCARTHY-1

Soon after Stoidi Puekaw decided to market “Jenny’s Pint O’Pee” claiming there were 500,000 cases of her urine ready to be shipped from Mexico.  Her lawyers quickly claimed trademark infringement and when Abel revealed the joke he pointed out his pseudonym read backwards spelled Wake Up Idiots!

 The Button Book was a joint project between Abel and his wife Jeanne with the illustrations by Cynthia Lansing York.  IMG_0003The pages display potential buttons that the reader is encouraged to enjoy on the page or even cut out of the book to wear as real buttons.  As the Abel’s point out they are also extremely useful to conceal a hole in a sweater or perhaps use as a monocle.  The pages of buttons seem to veer between political commentary, satire, puns, and double entendres.


The button book by Alan and Jeanne Abel. Illus. by Cynthia Lansing York. New York, Citadel Press [1967]. PN6162.A22 1967 can be found in Widener’s collection.


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

April 29th, 2015

David Garrick’s “Inscription for Wolf[e]”

Garrick, David. Inscription for Wolfe. MS Thr 21.1

Inscription for Wolf

[first four lines struck out: What Epitaph, or Monumental Pile,
Sacred to Gratitude, and Martial Fame,
Worthy of Wolf, & worthy of this Isle,
Shall tell his Actions, & record his name? ]
The Nation’s Glory is [struck out: the Wolf’s his] My Monument,
The Adamantine Pillars, Publick Good,
The Ample Base the *Western Continent,
The Epitaph is written in [struck: his] my Blood!
[struck out: the battle in which he was killed fix’d the Conquest of America:]
*America, the Conquest of which was fix’d by ye Battle where he lost his Life

These verses are in the bold hand of actor and part-owner of the theatre in Drury Lane, David Garrick (1717-1779). Garrick was known as a “prologue-smith” for his skill in crafting witty, appropriate prologues and epilogues for his actors, and these and other occasional poems by Garrick appeared frequently in contemporary newspapers and magazines. This undated draft of an “Inscription” memorializing British General James Wolfe shows Garrick revising his verse for heightened dramatic effect.
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April 24th, 2015

Houdini’s bronze of Bernhardt

Newly cataloged from the Harvard Theatre Collection, a bronze statuette linking Harry Houdini to The Divine Sarah

bostonThe episode began with a fumbled gesture to honor the 72-year-old French actress during her final American tour. The gift, a bronze cast of Bernhardt as the Queen of Spain in Victor Hugo’s Ruy Blas, was presented at a matinée performance in New York on 8 December 1916 on behalf of the “actors of America.” The actors of America had, however, neglected to pay for it, and when, unable to recoup its fee elsewhere, Gorham Company forwarded the bill to Bernhardt’s manager and then on to Madame Bernhardt herself, she immediately returned both.

The ensuing tangle played out over weeks in the press, and ended with Houdini–expert in extrication­­–rescuing those involved from further embarrassment. He paid the $350 owed finally to the sculptor’s widow, Mrs. Samuel James Kitson. Kitson had been an American artist of some note and modeled the clay original (from which the bronze was cast) in Paris in 1879, likely after a photograph by Achille Melandri.

statuetteTCS 2 (Bernhardt)

Houdini’s goodwill paid rich dividends in publicity. His clipping service culled over 3,500 reports of the affair. To the cast he added the inscription, “Á Sarah Bernhardt avec mes hommages,” confirming his very public offer to present the gift anew. An opportunity came a few weeks later when the two met in Boston, but for whatever reason Bernhardt never claimed the trophy. It passed instead to Houdini’s friend, Quincy Kilby, along with the canceled check and Houdini’s telegram to Bernhardt. Elated, Kilby declared in a letter, “It shall be preserved in the archives.”

hommageIndeed it shall. It is probable that Kilby willed the piece to Harvard in September 1931 along with a scrapbook documenting his years of correspondence with Houdini.

Dale Stinchcomb, Curatorial Assistant for the Harvard Theatre Collection, contributed this post.

April 23rd, 2015

Exploring the origins of “African American”

Update: The sermon has now been digitized in full and can be seen here.

Fred Shapiro, associate director of the Yale Law School Library, recently brought to our attention an important and possibly unique sermon in Houghton’s collections. A 16-page pamphlet entitled A Sermon on the Capture of Lord Cornwallis is notable for the attribution of its authorship to “An African American”. Published in 1782, the book’s use of this phrase predates any other yet identified by more than 50 years.

A sermon on the capture of Lord Cornwallis. US 4405.5

The find was first reported in an article in the New York Times, and a followup piece gives more background information. The book was also the subject of a segment on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

We’ve just sent the pamphlet to be fully digitized, and we’ll update this post as soon as it’s available.

[This post was contributed by John Overholt, Curator of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson, and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts.]

April 23rd, 2015

Beloved Detective Holmes

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

The private life of sherlock holmesAlthough fan fiction is cropping up everywhere now and seems to be a new fad, it has actually been around for quite some time.  Fictitious characters have often inspired imaginative readers who go on to write their own stories.  Sherlock Holmes is no exception, though the extent of the genre and the seriousness with which people pursue it might be unusual.   Much of the stories about Sherlock Holmes are written as though he was a real person, and there are even “historical” sites devoted to him.  One such author is Vincent Starrett, a Holmes enthusiast who wrote The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in 1933.  Written as a biography, it takes into account both the fictional character of Holmes and describes further exploits and adventures, while also discussing Arthur Conan Doyle and the writing and publishing of these stories.

Subcutaneously my dear watsonAnother way in which authors have interacted with fictional characters is to examine the full cannon of stories about them and analyze character traits or actions.  One example is Subcutaneously, My Dear Watson: Sherlock Holmes and the cocaine habit by Jack Tracy.  Inspired by the pastiche The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer, Tracy studies the use of cocaine in the Sherlock Holmes tales and describes how it impacts the detective and his relationships.  It is an interesting read for Holmes enthusiasts as well as those interested in late 19th century attitude toward cocaine and drug use.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett and Subcutaneously My Dear Watson by Jack Tracy are from the Santo Domingo Collection. Several other books about Sherlock Holmes both by Arthur Conan Doyle and others can be found in Harvard’s collections.  Some examples include, The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan Doyle, Arthur’s son, and Sherlock Holmes: the unauthorized biography by Nick Rennison.

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

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