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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July 8th, 2014

The Jimi Hendrix Bibliographic Experience

Hendrix 1This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.  

This week’s feature is the second of two sculptural volumes: in this case, the binding itself, rather than the enclosure, defies convention. The book, a paperback French biography of Jimi Hendrix published in 1976, is unremarkable in itself. However, it’s been rebound in carved wooden boards covered in marbled paper, and attached to the rear cover are several spiky projections painted to resemble flames. Pasted inside the boards are photographs of Hendrix; the paperback’s original covers are preserved within. An autograph in pencil on the title page , “Woderer 92”, may be the binder’s signature; otherwise, we have no indication of this unusual binding’s provenance.

Hendrix 2

Benoit Feller. Jimi Hendrix. Paris: Albin Michel, c1976. ML410.H476 F4 1976.

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

July 7th, 2014

Lakota War Book Named One of “48 Books to Read”

A Lakota War Book from the Little Bighorn:The Pictographic "Autobiography of Half Moon" by Castle McLaughlinEach year the staff of the Kenyon Review select a number of recent books as suggestions for their readers summer reading. This year among the 48 Books to Read is Castle McLaughlin’s A Lakota War Book from Little Bighorn: The Pictographic “Autobiography of Half Moon.” A Lakota War Book was selected by Natalie Shapero, Kenyon Review Fellow. It is the fourth and latest in the series Houghton Library Studies established to provide a forum for the scholarly analysis of the wide-ranging materials in the collections of the Library.

Other books on the list include recent fiction, poetry and non-fiction. McLaughlin’s book was the subject of an earlier blog post when it received a glowing review in the April 3rd issue of the New York Review of Books. We are pleased that the book appears to be reaching a wide and appreciative audience in addition to the scholarly community.

Thanks to William P. Stoneman, Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts, and Series Editor for Houghton Library Studies, for contributing this post.

July 3rd, 2014

Eastern Magic

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

Indian Conjuring

Indian Conjuring, a book written by L.H. Branson is a detailed instruction manual to a collection of tricks that Branson discovered while living in India.  A magician himself, Branson explains tricks he has witnessed, as well as ones he does not know as well, such as the rope trick.  Although well versed in magic tricks, he was not a believer in spiritualism and thought it was based on conjurer tricks.  Branson traveled to India in the British Indian Army where he was promoted to Major and where he eventually retired.

The book begins with a chapter on different types of magic where he discusses branches from India, China, the  United States and other countries and how they contrast.
Indian Conjuring
Branson discusses the circumstances that allow for different types of magic tricks.  European and American magicians can practice illusions, and have money and props that an Indian magician could never afford.  The different loose and billowing clothing of the Chinese magician allows for different tricks as well.   He reflects negatively on the Indian conjurer, both for their lack of skill in his opinion, as well as the for complaint they do not come up with any new tricks.  Branson clearly believes sleight-of-hand illusions to be the best of the magic tricks, and does not think that anyone else can measure up to the Europeans.  He explains peoples’ fascination with Indian magic with the assumption that since magic originally comes from the east, people have the predisposition to believe an Eastern magician.

Indian Conjuring
Indian Conjuring

Despite his negative description of the Indian conjurer, he devotes the book specifically to Indian magic tricks that he has seen and learned living there.  Branson includes line illustrations to highlight the tricks he explains with step-by-step instructions.  Organized by what he describes as a typical set list of an Indian magician, he goes through each trick in the order performed.   Throughout the book he also showcases other magicians from India that he personally knew and who practice the tricks he is explaining.

Indian Conjuring

Indian conjuring, by Major L. H. Branson … With 8 illustrations London, Routledge, [1922] can be found in Widener’s collection.

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

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