Feed on

Hello world!

With this blog we hope to draw attention to the intriguing and remarkably rare items discovered by Harvard Library users during the course of their research. Harvard Library Preservation routinely reviews books returned through circulation, knowing that these returns include a surprising numbers of works that are too deteriorated to survive continued use, and are that too rare and interesting not to share online with the Harvard community, and beyond.

Titles are selected for digitization through various criteria such as rarity, condition, use, research relevance, and/or visual content. We invite you to peruse the titles posted here as well as subscribe to our feeds and see what titles queued for digitization, as well as those already completed and online.

Discover, Connect, and Comment!


Sporting periodicals began sprouting up in the latter half of the 19th century in direct response to an increased participation in both amateur and professional level sports. The growth in sports in America during the 19th century was spurred on by many factors, such as increased leisure time, improvements in the standard of living, as well as the overall shifting populations, mostly from the emancipated African Americans and the large influx of immigrants from Europe. Sports during this period (and even afterwards) offered a pseudo-safe haven for the disenfranchised members of society, allowing participants the ability to circumvent or rise above some of challenges of discrimination, societal mores, and other prejudices through merit and achievement. Beyond the growing working class and immigrants, there were other factors contributing to the rise of sports in America. Daily newspapers, cheaper printing methods, and telegraphy, all helped to disseminate and publicize national sporting news. Some of the sports we recognize today, baseball, football, boxing, track and field were starting to see a steady increase in event attendances. Even an occasional horse race, with an acclaimed thoroughbred, might be big news and attract some fifty thousand people. America’s first sporting magazine appeared in the second decade of the nineteenth century, but the large majority were established and published by the end of the century. In this rare pocket booklet from 1894, the Boston publisher Franklin K. Lanpher offered an annual sporting manual that recognized the great achievements in sports, cited official records, documented current rules, and offered other anecdotal information.

Some advice is given to the burgeoning athlete:

If one exercises till he is fatigued, he will
tear down and not build up. The muscles are
strengthened by moderate exertions and not
violent and fitful ones…Where the most heat is,
there is the most reduction. Fleshy persons
should keep the fattest parts of body covered
the most when exercising. Also wear a heavy
sweater. If feeling thirsty, gargle the throat
with cool water for a minute or two. Then
slowly drink a little.

In 1894, boxing was widely recognized as the premier world sporting event. This manual notes the achievements of prominent pugilist, George Dixon, who was the first black world boxing champion in any weight class, as well as another black boxer, Peter Jackson, who fought champion James Corbett to a 61 round draw.

Jewish cyclist, Arthur Augustus Zimmerman, was considered one of the world’s greatest sprinting cyclist and became the winner of the first world championship in 1893.

In addition to many familiar sports, such as cycling, baseball, horse racing, rowing, and track and field, the manual also provides records for ocean steamships, trains, ice polo, bowling, and walking.

Some interesting nuggets:

  • Champion pedestrian C. A. Harriman was credited with holding the record for “walking without a rest” with 121 miles, 385 yards.
  • The system of scoring for football adopted in 1883. Scoring —Goal by touch-down, 6; goal from field-kick, 5; touch-down falling goal, 4; safety by opponents, 2.
  • The largest turnstile count was at the New York-Chicago game, at N. Y., June 30,1891 — 22,289. The smallest attendance was at Pittsburg, on September 26, 1890, when 23 people paid to see the game between the Pittsburg and Boston League teams.
  • Rope Climbing record —22 ft., by B. Stanford, from New York Athletic Club
  • Throwing Base Ball —369 ft. 2 in., by G. G. Russell, Aliens, Cambridge, June 9, 1893
The Champion pocket sporting manual. Boston, Mass. : F.K. Lanpher & Co.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


The Planchette, a French word for “little plank,” was a heart shaped piece of wood with wheels and a slot for holding a pencil or some other writing implement. The purpose of a planchette was to assist with the generation of automatic writing, or as a medium to encourage communication with the spirit world. According to G.W. Cottrell, the manufacturer of the first planchettes in America, French monks were responsible for devising the planchette in a Parisian monastery. The planchette became trendy throughout France and England in the 1850s, with the device making its way into the United States by the 1860s. The devices were very popular amongst followers of the Spiritualist movement and featured during seances. It also had interest in various sects of society as a curiosity item for parlor entertainment, allowing men and women the opportunity to breach Victorian social mores by holding hands in a darkroom. The planchette design eventually morphed into the more familiar Ouija board, where automatic writing was removed in favor of a board that could dictate messages via numbers and letters. In this publication from 1868, G.W. Cottrell relays the origin and purpose of the planchette, as well as, how to purchase one.

As everybody interested in this wonderful invention
is anxious and curious to learn all that is known of
its early history, we extract, for further enlightenment,
the following, from a letter written by Dr.
H. F. Gardner to a Boston paper, dated London,
May 5th, 1859, which solves the question of the origin
of Planchette in this country.

“In Paris I witnessed a method of communication of which
I had not heard in America. The instrument used by them
they call a Planchette. The method of communication is by
writing. In order to give you some idea of the interest taken
in the investigation of the subject in Paris, it will only be
necessary to state, that I called upon the manufacturer of the
above-mentioned instrument to purchase one to take home
with me, and he informed Mr. Owen (Hon. Robert Dale
Owen), who was with me, that he had made and sold several
hundred in Paris alone.
” Not being able to speak the French language, I could not
enjoy the society of the household of Faith as I could have
done under more favorable circumstances ; yet, on visiting in
a family where Planchette was used, there was no difficulty
in -writing in my own native tongue.”

Dr. Gardner brought to Boston the Planchette
which he purchased in Paris, and some few were
made for the use of his friends : reference to which
is made in a recent number of a St. Louis paper as
The Boston Planchette, which is now to be found
in thousands of homes throughout the land.


Revelations of the great modern mystery, planchette, and theories respecting it. Boston : G.W. Cottrell, 1868.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


Blame it on the booze


“Touch not, taste not any intoxicating drink. Go not to a Grog Shop or Bar Room, as you would avoid the awful fate of Russell and Crockett!”

Simeon Crockett and Stephen Russell were convicted and executed in Boston on March 16, 1836 for the crime of arson. Capital punishment in Massachusetts, as was true for many states, was not limited to homicide. In the early 19th century, the scope of capital offenses in Massachusetts included arson, “if at night”; highway robbery; willful murder; burglary at night, and treason.

“Simeon L. Crockett and Stephen Russell were jointly
indicted for designedly, feloniously, maliciously, and
wickedly, setting fire to and burning the dwelling-house
of Joshua Benson, situated in South-street Place, on Haskins’
wharf, at or about twelve o’clock, on the night of
October 22, 1835. Mr. Benson was not himself an occupant
of the house, but it was inhabited by nineteen or
twenty Irish families, consisting of one hundred, or one
hundred and twenty persons-men, women, and children.”

– Supreme Judicial Court, Boston, Mass.

The two plead not guilty, but were convicted by a jury on Dec. 17th 1835 and sentenced to death by hanging in March of 1836. For his part in the crime, Crockett blamed the incident on alcohol. When asked by a journalist…

“How could you do so bad a thing?” his reply was, “we were all
half drunk, and did not know what we were about.”

Even in his final written statement before the execution, Crockett would not take personal responsibility for his actions. In fact, he implicated the sellers of alcohol as having equal culpability as those who actually imbibe the drink.

“I now under a deep sense of my situation, wright a few
lines to leave on earth, after I leave the world in memore
of me, while my spiret is gone into the world of spirots
… No wonder so many Crimes are Comited with
the drunkard when his brains is boiled in gin, rum
and brandy, when the natural man has fled and rum and
brandy has changed a man in to a beast, and destroys the
finest works of nature… The RETAILERS are
no more Guiltles than the men that drinks it. I feel to ‘
render the most tender and piteful feelings towards sutch
people.” (unedited transcription of Crockett’s final statement)

This crime was committed during the rapid growth of the temperance movement. Boston was an early advocate for reform, establishing The American Temperance Society in 1826. The movement used this incident as a way to advance their cause, providing sermons, pamphlets, and postings to expose the evils of alcohol to the public. Giving advice such as,

“Your safety depends on total abstinence from its polluting and destroying
touch. Its victims have all been those who once thought
they could drink and let it alone when they pleased. They temporized
with the destroyer until they were lost. They soon found
that, they could please to drink; but they could not please to let it


                            booze leads to malfeasance


Recently identified and digitized, as part of a collaborative project between Harvard and the Mass. Archives, are petitions to the Massachusetts governor submitted by Crockett and Russell, as well as relatives, witnesses, and supporters, in February 1836. These petitions requested a reprieve or pardon for the death sentences, offering a combination of arguments such as extenuating circumstances, personal testimony, and Christian objections to capital punishment.

The original petition by Simeon Crockett to commute his sentence


Below are resources on the Crockett and Russell crime and execution.

Crockett, Simeon L. A voice from Leverett Street Prison, or, The life, trial and confession of Simeon L. Crockett, who was executed for arson, March 16, 1836. Boston : Printed for the Proprietors, [1836?]. 6th ed.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


Crockett, Simeon L. A voice from Leverett Street Prison, or, The life, trial and confession of Simeon L. Crockett, who was executed for arson, March 16, 1836. Boston : Printed for the Proprietors, [1836?]. 3rd ed.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petitions; Council; Council Files February 20, 1836, Case of Stephen Russell and Simeon Crockett, GC3/series 378. Massachusetts Archives. Boston, Mass.
Persistent Link:
Massachusetts Archives, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Harvard University & Massachusetts Archives, Commonwealth of Massachusetts


Crockett, Simeon L. The true cause of crime. :Dying words of a criminal. Boston gail [sic], March 15, 1836. [Boston] : Cassady & March, printers, Boston, [1836].
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


The Evolution of Woman


Harry McVickar (1860-1905), contemporary of Charles Dana Gibson, was a prominent cartoonist and illustrator for many of the trendy magazines of the 19th century, such as Life and Harper’s, as well as a popular poster artist. In addition, McVickar also illustrated books and novels, such as Henry James’ Daisy Miller. Along with socialite, Arthur Baldwin Turnure, McVickar founded the new fashion publication, Vogue, in 1892, where he acted as the magazine’s first art director. After Turnure’s death, Conde Nast picked up the publication and developed it into the international sensation it remains today. In 1896, McVickar shifted his creative juices toward a satirical publication on the evolving role of women in society. The book, The Evolution of Woman, traces the history of womankind from the Garden of Eden to the end of the 19th century, suggesting that women have finally found their own voice, role, and standing. The Evolution of Woman, was reviewed in the New York Herald after its publication:

“In this clever brochure, half humorous and
half satirical, Mr. McVickar takes lovely wom
an from her first appearance In the Garden of
Eden, and pictures the evolution of the sex to
the end of the nineteenth century. From the
days of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, she
Is brought forward through the mediaeval times,
when she was something between a hindrance
and a help, to the present century, when, all
professions being open to her, she is holding
her own with her alleged lord and master, and,
if her physique develops as Mr. McVickar fore-
shadows in his closing sketches, she is destined
to make a bigger sensation than the Roentgen
rays. But in all these changes she is still love-
ly woman; and in her golf and bicycle dresses
she is certainly a thing of beauty and a joy for-

McVickar’s verse in “The Evolution of Woman”

Oh, yes ! There’s really no denying
You’ve had experiences most trying!
But — almost everywhere on earth
To-day dull man admits your worth.
You’ve all the Rights your sex affords;
You’ve stolen lots that were your lord’s!
You shoot — you golf — you hunt ‘cross ditches
You ride a wheel — you wear our breeches !

Cycling….the beginning of the end?

Susan B. Anthony once said “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”

Golfing in style

In 1895, the first Women’s Amateur Golf championship was held among 13 golfers at the Meadow Brook Club in Hempstead, N.Y.

A woman on the hunt

Sporting publications, such as Field and Stream, created a new column catered to the huntress, entitled “The Modern Diana”.

As a doctor

By 1900, the U.S. had approximately 7,000 women in the medical profession. Boston made up as much as 18% percent of all female physicians in the country.


Original poster advertisement for “The Evolution of Woman”


McVickar, H. W. The evolution of woman. New York : Harper & Bros., 1896.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


                           J.P. Morgan ‘either a Caesar or nothing’

Carlo de Fornaro (1872 – 1949), was an artist, humorist, writer, editor, and revolutionary. In 1902, he published a volume of caricatures entitled “Millionaires of Amer­ica“. Fornaro acknowledged his caricatures might not be well-received by some of the most powerful men in the United States, so he placed a notice at the front of the volume “All the responsibilities incurred by the printing and the publication of these cari­catures and resulting in suits for lese majeste, etc., will be borne entirely by Mr. Carlo de Fornaro.”

The New York Times review of the book (January 10, 1903)

“Perhaps it is well that some one should come out and ‘’stand for” the collection of pictures burlesquing certain well-known citizens of this town and some of whom, it is reported, have already lost their tem­per over the manner in which they have been depicted. To be caricatured, how­ever, is one of the penalties of greatness, even when that greatness merely consists in the possession of great wealth. When caricatures are true to life, as in many cases in the present instance, there is no denying that the public derive a certain satisfaction from seeing the victim writhe. Therefore, perhaps the eminent citizens whose counterfeit presentments are to be found in the book, might better conceal their chagrin and take it all good-humor­edly. Such was Pliny’s advice to the vic­tims of caricature in ancient days.

The present works are somewhat in the style of Fellegrini. Whose drawings, pub­lished svrtce 1862 in London Vanity Fair, are the most remarkable of iheir kind which have appeared since the superb gro­tesques of Honors Daumier. The volume embraces caricatures in color of A. G. Vanderbilt, Russell Sage, J. P. Morgan. Andrew Carnegie, W. C. Whitney, J. .1. Hill. George Gould. Col. J. J. Aster. O. H. P. Belmont, Charles M. Schwab. Tom L. Johnson, and Senator W. A. Clark.”

Journalist Bernard Gallant described Fornaro as:

“A very unique and interesting character. He was born in Calcutta, India, and reared in Italy and Switzerland. He is a scion of an old Italian family and is a member of the family of Pope Alexander VI. His education he received at the Royal Academy of Munich and came to this country twenty years ago. When he grew tired of dear, old New York with its glittering electric signs, he went to Mexico. That was in 1906. Instead of painting the picturesque scenes of that marvelous country, as he contemplated, he published a newspaper for more than three years, giving the Mexicans a taste of real Metropolitan journalism. That marked Fornaro’s entrance into the field of the Mexican revolution and he has been a loyal champion of the revolutionists ever since.

In appearance Fornaro looks very much like a Jesuit priest and keeps the hours of a brigand. He sleeps most of the day and wanders from cafe to cafe most of the night. With the fair sex he is most charming and gallant, but is galling bitter when he portrays them with pen or brush. But he is far from being a woman hater. Oddly enough, regardless of his cafe life, Fornaro indulges in nothing stronger than water.”

In the end, Fornaro did not experience any serious legal ramifications for his caricatures, but he eventually did so with a subsequent book focused on the corruption and brutalities of the Diaz Mexican government. His book “Diaz, Czar of Mexico; an arraignment, by Carlo de Fornaro with an open letter to Theodore Roosevelt” resulted in a prosecution and suit for criminal libel. He was convicted and sentenced to one year in the famous ‘Tombs’ prison in New York City. He took his unfortunate circumstances to record and eventually publish a book on his personal experience inside the New York penal system, as well as inserting some caustic commentary on American justice.

             Andrew Carnegie and his diminutive stature

                   John Jacob Astor ‘leisure with dignity’


Fornaro, Carlo de. Millionaires of America. New York : Published by the Medusa Pub Co., 1902.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


In a show of unity between allies, the United States celebrated its Independence Day in London on July 4, 1918. While the First World War was still raging, and a German surrender months away, Americans united with the British to commemorate the 4th of July together. The celebration in London was a way to further galvanize a strong military alliance, but also an opportunity to demonstrate to the world a political bond of two superpowers that would be both formidable and enduring. The events of the day were described by the publishing magnate and American Civil War veteran, George Haven Putnam, in this Library of War Literature pamphlet.


On the 4th of July, 1918, for the first time in history, America’s Independence Day was officially celebrated in London and throughout England by the English people. This commemoration of the national holiday of the United States was, in more ways than one, noteworthy and could but stir the blood of every loyal American who realized the meaning of the kinship between the two countries. London was ablaze with flags, the Stars and Stripes intertwined with the Union Jack, and in many places with the tricolour. Meetings were held in a number of the clubs and other centres throughout the town, the most important for the general public being that in the great Central Hall at Westminster. Thousands of American soldiers were in England, most of whom were spending their first Independence Day away from their native soil. The vessels of the American Navy were operating along the British coast in close companionship with the ships of their British Allies. American troops were fighting in France, brigaded with the veterans of Great Britain. In London, and throughout England, clubs, rest-houses, and canteens had been organized for the benefit of the guests from overseas. A spirit of brotherhood was in the air. In London there was a series of luncheons and dinners, and the Londoner who could not secure one or more Yankees on whom to bestow his hospitality felt defrauded.


Interestingly, the day was highlighted by a baseball game! King George with Queen Mary and other royalty, including Winston Churchill, watched and cheered for a cerermonial “baseball match” between American soldiers and sailors. As described:


Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the commemoration
was the game of baseball fought out, and very well
fought out, between men selected from the divisions of the American
Army and from the sailors of the American Navy who were
at the time within reach of London. King George honoured the
boys with his presence, and the King’s example was, naturally,
followed by hundreds of representatives of the “best society”
and by forty thousand other good Englishmen who were ready
to admire, and who did their best to understand, the fine points
in the excellent playing of the Yankee experts…


Winston Churchill, who was present at the the game, played a prominent role in the events of the day, giving a stirring speech.


…We therefore feel no sense of division in celebrating this anniversary. We join in perfect sincerity and in perfect simplicity with our American kith and kin in commemorating the auspicious and glorious establishment of their nationhood. We also, we British who have been so long in the struggle, also express our joy and gratitude for the mighty and timely aid which America has brought and is bringing to the Allied Cause…The line is clearly drawn between the nations where the peoples own the governments and the nations where the governments own the peoples. Our struggle is between systems which faithfully endeavor to quell and quench the brutish, treacherous, predatory promptings of human nature, and a system which has deliberately fostered, organized, armed, and exploited these promptings to its own base aggrandizement. We are all erring mortals. No race, no country, no individual, has a monopoly of good or of evil, but face to face with the facts of this war, who can doubt that the struggle in which we are engaged is in reality a struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil?


Actual footage of King George’s arrival at the baseball game, along with some game action, has been preserved. Originally recorded on a newsreel by British Pathé.


Original newsreel footage of King George’s arrival at the baseball game



A declaration of interdependence :commemoration in London in 1918 of the 4th of July, 1776 : resolutions and addresses at the Central Hall, Westminster. New York : Library of War Literature, [1918].
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University



In October of 1896, the New York Times reported the recent arrest of Joseph Ullman, claiming him to be the ‘greatest bookmaker’ in the U.S. He, along with his sheetmakers, were arrested by the storied “vice fighter” and enforcer of public morality, Anthony Comstock, for gambling violations. Ironically, the period 1895-1908 was considered the golden age for New York horse racing and gambling, in spite of the enactment of the Percy-Grey law of 1895. Loopholes in the act allowed for flagrant disregard for the law’s original intent for curbing gambling, resulting in rampant and conspicuous bookmaking activity. Horse racing was extremely popular at the turn of the century, being referred to as “The Sport of Kings”, but eventually the sport dropped from 314 racetracks to a mere 25 in 1908. In spite of his legal entanglements, Ullman continued to be a legendary bookie or turf accountant, publishing an insiders view of bookmaking stories in 1903. Ullman explains the origins of the book:

Of all known sports, undoubtedly none
has gained such popular favor as RACING,
usually termed “The Sport of Kings,” and of
all the places in the world, there is none
where one may study human nature in the
same manner as at the race track.
When one realizes that during the hours of
from two to five every afternoon, there is a
daily exchange between the public and the
bookmakers of from two to three million
dollars, and with a daily attendance of from
ten to forty thousand people, there happen
very many ludicrous incidents and funny sayings.

A number of bookmakers, including myself,
were dining one evening at a celebrated
cafe, and began telling comical stories and
humorous episodes. My experience of
twenty-eight years on the turf had taught me…Hey, Joe,
what’s the odds, a book of these yarns
wouldn’t be a go ?

The book is a collection of true or fabled stories about the world of bookmakers. The New York Times Book Review was not so kind with its evaluation of Ullman’s work.

“When a bookmaker makes a book it is not usually literature. And this book of Mr. Ullman’s is no more literature than the other books he has made at the race track”

Ullman’s life was a rags to riches to rags story. Ullman was an orphan who started out working as a newsboy before moving into the gambling world. His operation was known as “The Big Store”, taking in bets of $100,000. Later in his life, Ullman suffered major financial losses, particularly investing in an opera company that failed miserably. Soon afterwards, he suffered a mental and physical breakdown, eventually being placed in an insane asylum where he died in 1908.


Ullman, Joseph Frederick. What’s the odds? :funny, true and clean stories of the turf. New York City : Metropolitan Print. Co., c1903.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


Entrance into the Chinese Collection at Hyde Park

Nathan Dunn (1782- 1844) was a Quaker merchant and philanthropist who embarked on a mission to collect cultural artifacts from China to both educate and entertain Americans. In 1838, he opened his “Chinese Museum” in Philadelphia, more commonly referred to as Ten Thousand Chinese Things. The collection was a spectacle and quite popular with the public, garnering over 100,000 visitors in its first year. A published guidebook was offered as way to promote the collection and educate visitors. In 1842, after financial troubles, Dunn moved the collection to London, where it was housed in a pagoda-like exhibition hall at Hyde Park Corner. Queen Victoria was its first visitor at the June opening. The collection was equally popular in London, as it was in Philadelphia, with some 70,000 to 80,000 catalogs sold in the U.S. and England. This Harvard Library copy of the 1843 revised catalog provides history, background, and a complete list of the exhibits, remaining one of the few resources left to indicate what was in the museum. The collection was unlike any other at its time, apart from artifacts, specimens, and dioramas, the museum also had life-size clay mannequins accurately modeled after some 50 real Chinese acquaintances of Dunn. The collection could be considered a forerunner to museum period rooms, with recreated shops and interiors encompassing all of Chinese society, from mandarins, priests, barbers, shoemakers, soldiers, merchants, and beggars. At its time, collections and exhibitions such as this one were looked upon as possible substitutes for travel abroad. E . C. Wines announced that one no longer had to “subject one’s self to the hazards and privations of a six months’ voyage on distant and dangerous seas, to enjoy a peep at the Celestial Empire.”

The revised catalog for London opens with acknowledgement of the recent Opium War:

The present crisis of affairs in China has awakened in the public
mind a deep and powerful feeling of inquiry towards this singular and
secluded people.
The particular object with which the following pages are so immediately
associated, proving beyond all other means, a useful and pleasing
medium of conveying the information sought for; and the copious
remarks contained in former Catalogues of the Chinese Collection
having been so favourably received by the public (of which upwards of
80,000 copies have been sold), the author has been induced to increase
the size of the present volume by the addition of much original matter,
together with information obtained by an abridgment of the latest and
best authorities.
The object desired in the present publication is to present to the
reader, and the visitor of the Collection, the greatest amount of knowledge
in the smallest possible space.

The Illustrated London News described the exhibition and its significance–

Upon the left-hand side of the inclined plane, extending iron Hyde Park Corner to Knightsbridge, and towards the extremity of St. George’s.-place, a grotesque erection has lately sprung up with all the cupidity which distinguishes the building operations of the present day.  As the work proceeded, many were the guesses at the purpose for which it was intended; and, to feed the suspense of the many thousands who daily pass this thoroughfare, the work was covered with canvas until just completed. The structure in question is the entrance to an extensive apartment filled with “curiosities of China.” In design this entrance is characteristically Chinese, and is taken from the model of a summer residence now in the collection. It is of two stories, the veranda roof of the lower one being supported by vermilion-coloured columns, with pure white capitals, and over the doorway is inscribed, in Chinese characters, “Ten Thousand Chinese Things.” Such summer-houses as the above are usual in the gardens of the wealthy, in the southern provinces of China, often standing in the midst of a sheet of water, and approached by bridges and sometimes they have mother-of- pearl windows. Although the above building in raised from the pathway, whence it is approached by a flight of steps, it is somewhat squatly proportioned. But such is the character of Chinese buildings, so that when the Emperor Kesen-king saw a perspective view of a street in Paris or London, he observed, “that territory must be very small whose inhabitants are obliged to pile their houses to the clouds;” and, in a poem on London, by a Chinese visitor, it is stated,-“The houses are so lofty that you may pluck the stars.”
The collection we are about to notice has been formed by an American gentleman, Mr. Nathan Dunn, who resided in China for a period of twelve years, and experienced more courtesy from the Chinese than generally falls to the lot of foreigners. Mr. Dunn was, moreover, assisted in his labours by Howqua, Tingqua, and other Hong merchants of note and who, in this instance, seemed to rise above the prejudices of their countrymen, in being most “willing to communicate.” The design at first was merely to collect a few rare specimens for a private cabinet; but the appetite grew with what it fed upon, and thus Mr. Dunn has assembled what may, without exaggeration, be termed the Chinese world in miniature . . .

Dunn died in 1844 and the fate of his unique collection still remains somewhat sketchy. Most evidence points to the collection being picked up by showmen, including P.T. Barnum, before it eventually became dispersed through auctions to private collectors and perhaps lost to time.

Replica of an apartment of a Chinese Nobleman

Replica of a bedroom

Examples of furnishings

Chinese lantern

Hatching eggs by artificial heat


Langdon, William B. Ten thousand things relating to China and the Chinese :an epitome of the genius, government, history, literature, agriculture, arts, trade, manners, customs, and social life of the people of the celestial empire, together with a synopsis of the Chinese collection.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University


James Leon Williams was a dentist, scientist, scholar, artist, and philosopher. While he is most noted as the first to discover plaque and the inventor of modern dentures, he was also a photographer of considerable ability, using photographic techniques for both artistic and scientific purposes. As a scientist, his microphotographic research confirmed the relationship between bacteria and tooth decay. As an artist, he was amongst the few American photographers to fully recognize the photogravure process as not only a technique for reproducing photographs, but an artform in its own right. Williams’ work is most akin to the school of photography founded by Peter Henry Emerson, where creating an atmospheric composition with soft peripheral focus would most closely resemble nature. He produced two fine photogravure picture books, “The Home and haunts of Shakespeare” (1892), and “The land of Sleepy Hollow and the home of Washington Irving” (1887). His work on the home of Washington Irving was a collaborative effort with the well known Irving illustrator, Felix Darley. The book celebrates the work of Washington Irving, his literary importance and enduring popularity.

According to his biographer, George Wood Clapp, “Dr. Williams seems equally at home with the microscope, the pen, the palette, and the graver. He is at once a student, a writer, a scientist, an artist, and a sculptor. Above all, he is a philosopher.”

According to H.M. Cartwright, historian of photomechanical processes, “Of all photoengraving methods there is none which produces such rich and satisfying results as photogravure. The reason for this is to be found in the method of printing. It is an intaglio process and, therefore, the quantity of ink which is transferred to the paper can be considerable, and it shares with mezzotint among hand engraving processes the resulting richness of tones.”


Irving, Washington. The land of Sleepy Hollow and the home of Washington Irving :a series of photogravure representations, with descriptive letter-press. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1887.
Persistent Link:
Widener Library
Harvard University




In the 1590’s, the Dutch explored the Arctic regions looking for a sea passage to Asia. While their aspirations for a lucrative northeast passageway was never realized, the voyages did provide an unanticipated benefit for the growing Dutch economy. In addition to noting the proliferation of polar bears and walruses, these arctic expeditions sighted large quantities of whales off the coast of Spitsbergen and across the Greenland Sea. These revelations encouraged the Dutch to commit significant resources towards shipbuilding and naval supremacy, with the expectation of countless riches from the trade of whaling products. The British and French were unable to keep up with the Dutch, both in finance and capital to support this venture. The Dutch became the preeminent whalers of the 17th and early 18th century, killing some 30,000 whales, making huge profits, and establishing the Netherlands as the center of the whaling industry. Having a near monopoly on whaling, the Dutch kept the prices artificially high across Europe.

Much of our understanding of whaling at this time comes from the publications of Cornelis Gijsbertsz Zorgdrager, a Dutch navigator born around 1660, who commanded a number of whaling ships during this period of Dutch growth and dominance. Recognizing the proliferation of stories, fables, and legends regarding whaling, Zorgdrager decided to publish his own research and observations from his whaling days. His works showed how ships ought to be equipped, where whales and other sea inhabitants were to be found, and how to hunt and render the animals amidst ice floes and treacherous seas. He provides considerable detail about ships, on board provisions, equipment, hunting apparatus, and catches across the northern fishing areas and small coastal encampments. In addition to the general map of the northern regions, there are among others, maps of Iceland and of Greenland, as well as plates of various wildlife.

“My profession for several years having been fishing in Greenland, I felt obliged to acquire the knowledge and training they require… I noted very carefully in my annual register all the remarkable events that had come to me in order to have an accurate idea of ​​my operations.” -Zorgdrager

Dutch supremacy in whaling over other European competitors like France, Germany and Britain eventually diminished in the second half of the 18th century as those countries became more powerful as a result of their colonial exploits.


The perilous hunt on the open waters

Narwhal skeletons often thought to be related to unicorns

Bowhead or right whale, the most desired for hunting

Depictions of walrus and sperm whale

Illustration of ships trapped in the ice


Persistent Link:
Zorgdrager, Cornelis Gijsbertsz. Cornelius Gisbert Zorgdragers Beschreibung des Grönländischen Wallfischfangs und Fischerey :nebst einer gründlichen Nachricht von dem Bakkeljau- und Stockfischfang bey Terreneuf, und einer kurzen Abhandlung von Grönland, Island, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Jan Mayen Eiland, der Strasse Davids u.a. ; aus dem holländischen übersetzt, und mit accuraten Kupfern und Land-Charten gezieret.
Widener Library
Harvard University


Older Posts »