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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.

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This short pamphlet, issued after the Americans had entered WWI, was offered as both a humorous and inspirational message to those back on the homefront. The ideals of sacrifice and support for the troops abroad was not limited to the people of the U.S., as Buttons, a poodle from Boston, provided his own small contribution to the war cause. Wool was in constant demand for military and hospital use, and shortages along with high costs were a constant concern for the government as uniforms typically lasted only 6-8 weeks in the trenches. The idea of supplementing the wool stock with dog hair was not a joke, as the British promoted this alternative source of wool as the war lingered on. In an article from 1918, The Grand Rapids Press reported:

The keeping of canine pets by society women may be regarded for the duration of the war at least, as a patriotic duty instead of as a wasteful and demoralizing luxury; but only if the dog be of the long-haired species. It has been demonstrated that an exceptionally high class wool can be spun from the combings of all breeds of long-haired dogs. Sam­ples from chows, Pekingese, poo­dles, Bergers d’Alsace and sheep dogs have been submitted to wool experts who are emphatic In their commendation.

This pamphlet is written from the dog’s perspective and describes his eagerness to donate his wooly fur for the use of knitted socks. The cover illustrates Buttons sitting proudly with the finished socks.

Buttons’ says:

“I’m just a little white poodle, but
I feel so pleased I just want to
tell everyone about it. I was
born in Boston ten years ago last
February, but when I was three
months old I was sold to a gentleman
in Somerville, and as he has
paid my license ever since, I feel
like a real citizen. Of course I can’t
talk, but I listen, and I hear lots of
things about dogs being useless, and
the boys needing all the wool supply…”

“So this is what happened. They trimmed
me carefully and my good friend carded
and spun it into soft wool, and she
said it was lovely. Then my mistress’
sister in the West knitted the
wool into a pair of socks, and I hope
some Sammy will get them to wear
if he needs them next winter.”


Buttons begs to help!

Buttons fight song:

“I cannot sew, I cannot knit,
I wish that I were wiser ;
But I resolved to do ” my bit “
To help to down the Kaiser.
The days grew warm, my hair was long
And softer far than chamois ;
They sheared my coat, and spun soft wool
And knitted socks for Sammy.”

–The term “Sammy” was British slang for the US soldiers, referencing the iconic poster imagery of Uncle Sam by James Montgomery Flagg.


Thompson, Josephine. Buttons’ bit :the story of a patriotic dog. Boston : Hudson Print. Co., c1918.
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                     Delegorgue — explorer and exploiter

Louis Adulphe Delegorgue, born in 1814, embarked on lifelong travels at the young age of 16. His greatest passion was for Africa, which supplied him with endless naturalist interests and satiated his tremendous appetite for big game hunting. Delegorgue’s travels in Southern Africa began with his arrival in Cape Town in 1838, and lead to an extensive exploration of the inland territories of Natal and Zululand, where he collected specimens and hunted and killed a large number of animals for sport. He returned to France publishing an account of his travels in South Africa. Untrained and without any fromal scientific education, Delegorgue had an unusual mixture of adventurous, even violent, temperment with a proclivity toward careful and thoughtful observation. He was certainly reckless at times, arrogant, perhaps even duplicitous, collecting numerous specimens for scholarly study but also acquiring ivory and hides for personal gain. In a similar way, he studied indigenous people he met, but concluded that they were inferior to the Europeans, merely suitable to hold and carry his gun during a hunt. Yet, on the other hand, he took the time to compile an extensive dictionary of Zulu vocabulary, the earliest known to be collected and published, even still considered a valuable linguistic resource today. On a later expedition, he died of fever during a trek across the African continent at the young age of 35. While not a household name amongst the African explorers of the 19th century, his legacy remains. The college of his home town was named after him, along with several animal species, including the Delagorgue Pigeon.


“hunting” the elephants

“What paltry reason can justify the death and destruction of such beautiful, strong and excellent animals? What are a couple of hundred pounds of ivory compared with the long service which such animals might render to man for generations? I was perfectly conscious of the mischief I was doing but I was a hunter first and foremost.”  trans. from French.

A water buffalo charge

“I dropped flat on the ground, throwing aside my excellent gun, which had now become a useless thing, and I folded my arms one over the other to cushion my forehead.  Inexorably, the buffalo came thundering towards me; I caught a glimpse of his flaring nostrils, tinged with blood; seven more paces and I would be annhilated….”  trans. from French.

Sina des Amazoulous

“Suddenly a very different sound arose; the singing of voices to which my ear was unaccustomed. The circle of warriors parted to reveal the most picturesque sight; that sacred group, the Cafre sultan’s harem, had appeared…The neck was encircled by four copper rings.  The women appeared so much restricted by these that they were unable to turn their heads freely.  I admit that I found this fashion ridiculous- beautiful, perhaps, but even less useful than a copper collar on a dog….” trans. from French.

A witness to the wars of the emigrant Boers with Dingaan

“This was the first encounter in which the Amazoulous had retaliated with firearms. They had take the guns off the settlers killed at Touguela, but their ill-aimed shots produced no visible effect. The thousands of assegais streaking through the air would have inflicted much damage had a closer approach been possible; but the Boers had the advantage, whenever the attack grew particularly menacing in any sector, of being able to rake the vanguard with grapeshot.” trans. from French.


Delegorgue, Adulphe. Voyage dans l’Afrique australe :notamment dans le territoire de Natal dans celui des Cafres Amazoulous et Makatisses et jusqu’au tropique du Capricorne, durant les années 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843 & 1844. Paris : Au Dépot de Librairie, [1847].
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Lazzaro Pasini (1861-1949), an Italian painter mostly know for his landscapes, traveled to the Eritrean port of Massawa where he deviated from his typical landscape imagery to focus on the life and culture of the native people. Eritrea was the only remaining Italian controlled territory after the epic Battle of Adwa and the subsequent treaty for Ethiopian independence. The battle is noted for its high casualty rate, greater than the Napoleonic Wars, and the disasterous results for the Italian government and its colonial ambitions in that region. As a result, Ethiopia became the first independent state with its sovereinty recognized throughout Europe. In this small publication, Pasini’s sketches were converted into chromolithographs depicting dress, ceremonies, and daily activities. The cover image is a scene of Abyssinians playing the game of mancala outside of their houses.

Goldsmith work

Banquet feast

A hairdresser and women pulverizing burberries

Baptism ceremony

Usi e costumi dell’Abissinia e dei dintorni di Massaua. Milano : A. Vallardi, [18--].
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                             Massive Talipot palm tree of Sri Lanka

Following the initial French military success in Egypt under Napoleon, the British government ordered the Bengal army to be placed under the command of General Abercromby in attempt to expel the remaining French stronghold in Egypt. Louis Pantaléon Jude Amédée, the “Count of Noé”, was amongst the troops sent from Bengal to Egypt. During the French Revolution, he fled to England, eventually joining the British military and receiving a post in the Bengal Army. In this book from 1826, Count Noe offers a primary account of his journey during the 1798-1800 military campaign from India to Egypt. The circumstance of a French royalist serving in the British Army provides a very unique perspective of the turbulent time period, changing politics, and culture clashes from the East to the West. The book comes across more like a travelogue, with geographical information, first-hand descriptions of cities, insight into local customs, fashion, and nature from India, Ceylon, as well as the journey up the Nile to the Battle of Alexandria. This work contains several hand coloured lithographs, including historic views, scenes of manners and costumes of Sepoys, Egyptian Fellahin, the Bedouin Arabs, etc.

Indian Brahmins

Ceylon costumes

Turc costumes



Snake charmers

Noé, Louis Pantaléon Jude Amédée. Mémoires relatifs à l’expédition anglaise :partie du Bengale en 1800 pour aller combattre en Égypte l’armée d’orient. [Paris] : l’Imprimé royale, 1826..
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Sun Tzu’s Art of War has become an iconic work, a commonly cited treatise with cross-over interest and application in academia, military, business management, and even popular culture. Sun Tzu (544-496 BC), a Chinese military strategist, revered and influential throughout Asia, was virtually unknown in Western culture for centuries until the French Jesuit missionary, Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, translated his masterpiece into French in 1772. Jean Joseph Marie Amiot (1718-1793), born at Toulon, France, entered the Jesuit order in 1737, ordained in 1746. In 1750, he was sent as a missionary to China where he became a close confident of the Qianlong Emperor, acting as an official translator and spiritual leader. Amiot remained in China for the next 43 years documenting Chinese culture and philosophy. Amiot’s output was staggering, producing works on history, science, music, and art, as well as a biography of Confucius and an authoritative Manchu dictionary. Within his voluminous accounts is a work compiling the essential classics of Chinese military, including the notable Art of War. The Art of War text is comprised of 13 chapters, each one devoted to a different aspect of warfare, such as management, environment, leadership, creativity, etc. Legend has it that Sun Tzu’s work influenced Napoleon in developing his own campaign strategies. The work became even more influential in the 20th century with leaders as diverse as Mao Zedong, General Pervez Musharraf, Vo Nguyen Giap, and General Douglas MacArthur.

In this early printing from 1772, Amiot presents not only Sun Tzu’s classic, but other important works on Chinese warfare, tactics, and philosophy, recorded over the centuries. The work also includes illustrations depicting various military troop exercises, armaments, uniform, costumes, etc.

Organized as follows:

Le premier, Sun-tse
Le sécond, Ou-tse.
Le troisieme, Se-ma-fa.
Le quatrième, Lou-tao.
Le cinquième, Leao-tse.
Le sixieme, Tai-tsoung, Li-ouei-kong

Amiot, Joseph Marie. Art militaire des Chinois, ou, Recueil d’anciens traités sur la guerre :composés avant l’ere chrétienne, par différents généraux chinois. Paris : Didot l’ainé, 1772. 
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In 1858, Douglas Bly, a physician from Rochester, New York, invented and patented an artificial leg that incorporated new technology, materials, and design to better mimic the movements of the human leg. His knowledge of anatomy informed his approach, which was focused on providing a more natural gait to the disabled. The most important improvements were related to his ball and socket ankle, which were made of an ivory ball resting within a rubber socket. This ankle design not only provided a smoother and less jarring support system, but also allowed for the natural inversion and eversion of the human foot, giving mobility inward and outward.

The outbreak of the Civil War led to an extraordinary number of disabled soldiers with amputations in the tens of thousands, resulting in an ovewhelming demand for prosthetics. The competition amongst manufaturers of artificial limbs was great as each tried to gain a lucrative or exclusive government contract. Though a doctor by trade, Douglas Bly was a surprisingly persistent and effective self-promoter, making sure his invention was well publicized across the country, with particular pitches to the US Government. Though it was recognized as a superior prosthetic, the US government determined the cost of Bly’s leg too great to supply as the preferred limb replacement for soldiers. As a compromise to Dr. Bly, soldiers were given the option to pay the additional cost “out of pocket” if they opted for Dr Bly’s advanced model. During the Civil War, he published a simple pamphlet that was  basically an “infomercial” pointing out the failings of his competitors and presenting a slew of endorsements by satisfied customers.

Formerly the manufacture of artificial legs has been left entirely to common mechanics, and those who have undergone amputation, but who have little or no knowledge of anatomy ; consequently, the construction of artificial legs has been merely mechanical, and not anatomical. They have imitated some of the motions of the natural leg quite well, but others not at all. Indeed it could hardly be expected that any one but ananatomist should  be able to model a leg so close to nature, as to imitate allthe varied motions of the natural leg.

Though the perfection of my Anatomical Leg is truly wonderful, I do not want every awkward, big-footed, or gambreled shanked person, who always strided or shuffled along in a slouching manner with both his natural legs, to think that one of these must necessarily transform him or his movements into specimens of symmetry, neatness and beauty, as if by magic, as Cinderella’s frogs were turned into sprightly coachmen. They are just what I recommend them to be—neither more nor less.

- Dr. Douglas Bly

Satisfied customer, Henry Eitt of Rochester

Diagram of Dr. Bly’s invention

Bly, Douglas. A new and important invention, by Douglas Bly, M.D. :by frequent dissections, Dr. Bly has succeeded in embodying the principles of the natural leg in an artificial one, and in giving it lateral, or side motion at the ankle, the same as the natural one. Rochester, [N.Y.] : Curtis, Butts, 1862.
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                       A peep into the inner sanctum


Dating back to the Neolithic Age, the winter soltice has been observed, revered, and worshiped as an iconic moment in the earth’s annual cycle. Ancient physical remains around the globe attest to the allure of the winter solstice for both religious celebration and practical planning for the growing season. In Britain, the primary axes of Stonehenge appears to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunset. The ongoing mystery and obsession with Stonhenge, along with speculation on its supposed purpose, should be credited to William Stukeley (1687 –1765), a harbinger of modern archeological study and a pioneer in the restoration and preservation of ancient monuments and sites. Stukeley, a friend and biographer of Isaac Newton (acknowledged with creating the “apple falling” story), was a fascinating character in his own right.  An English gentleman, scholar, historian, physician, freemason, and druid, Stukeley surveyed Stonehenge in the 1720s and published his principal work on the ancient monument in 1740. Although Stukeley incorrectly theorized that the monument was part of the druidic religion, he was the first to recognize and describe the alignment of Stonehenge with the solstice. His meticulous observations and thorough survey remain significant and valuable in the history of the monument.


“Stonehenge stands not upon the very summit of a hill, but pretty near it, and
for more than three quarters of the circuit you ascend to it very gently from
lower ground. At half a mile distance, the appearance of it is stately and awful,
really august. As you advance nearer, especially up the avenue, which is
to the north-east of it, (which side is now most perfect) the greatness of its con-
tour fills the eye in an astonishing manner… Nothing in nature could be of a more
simple idea than this vast circle of stones, and its crown-work or corona at top ;
and yet its effect is truly majestic and venerable, which is the main requisite
in sacred structures. A single stone is a thing worthy of admiration…  ”                                      
-   William Stukeley


Remains of Stonehenge

Inward view of Stonehenege

View of Stonehenge from Bush Barrow site.

Stukeley, William. Stonehenge, a temple restor’d to the British druids. London : Printed for W. Innys and R. Manby, at the West End of St. Paul’s, 1740. 
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Servant performs the role of a chair for the Queen


According to legend, Queen Nzinga (or Zinga, or Njinga) 1583-1663 was given her name because she was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. To the Ndongo, this was an indication she would become a wise and proud woman. Indeed she was, a strong, charismatic, and shrewd leader who would not acquiesce to the European colonists. She ruled during a period of rapid growth in the African slave trade and at a time when the Portuguese were concentrating their efforts towards South West Africa, in attempts to circumvent the British and French holdings. The presence of the Portuguese clearly threatened the independent kingdoms of the territory (which is present-day Angola). Queen Nzinga came to power in 1626 after the death of her brother. During her reign of 37 years, she remained relentless and ruthless in maintaining independence from the Portuguese. Nzinga fearlessly and cleverly fought for the freedom of her kingdom against the Portuguese using armed combat when necessary and striking up an alliance with the Dutch when it was advantageous.  She also converted to Christianity, though some believe she did so only for diplomatic leverage. She also made an unusual decree, establishing her kingdom as a safe haven for runaway slaves seeking refuge from the European colonists. It was a strategy that  gained her admiration and loyal subjects to fend off the Portuguese. Her status in African history is significant, not only as an iconic female ruler during a turbulent time in Africa, but as an inspiration to the Angolans in their quest for independence in the 20th century.

Many fascinating stories and legends are attributed to Queen Nzinga. In an often repeated tale, the Portuguese governor, Correia de Sousa, did not offer a chair for Nzinga to sit on during their negotiations, and instead, had a floor mat laid out for her to sit. The use of banal floor mat was appropriate only for subordinates and Nzinga took exception to this slight by the governor. Unwilling to accept this humiliation, she ordered one of her servants to get down on the ground on all fours so she could sit upon his back during negotiations. Through this overt act, she asserted her status as an equal to the governor, not an inferior. The scene was depicted by an eyewitness account, the Italian preist Giovanni Cavazzi, during one of his missions to Africa. Cavazzi’s drawings are considered to be amongst the first sketches of African life by a European. Some of these drawings were made into prints and published in an extensive account of Cavazzi’s travels.  In another peculiar legend, Nzinga was a woman noted for executing her lovers. With a large, all male harem at her disposal, she had the men fight one another to the death in order to spend the night with her and, after a single night of lovemaking, were, in turn, put to death.


Queen Nzinga with a crucifix and a scene depicting her holding a typical meal

The Queen’s baptism and a smoking ceremony for her dead brother

Queen Nzinga’s funeral procession


Cavazzi, Giovanni Antonio. Relation historique de l’Ethiopie occidentale :contenant la description des royaumes de Congo, Angelle, & Matamba. A Paris : Chez C.J.B. Delespine le fils, 1732.
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Louis Joblot (1645-1723) is often neglected in the history of microscopy. A contemporary of Leeuwenhoek, who is recognized as the first to observe and record microbes, Joblot, in his own right, was an equally innovative inventor and theorist. A professor of mathematics at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Joblot explored and lectured on perspective, optics, and geometry, leading to his personal pursuit of microscopy during the period of 1680-1716. His landmark work from 1718 presented his own developments and modifications of the microscope, observations of protozoa, and his opposition to the theory of spontaneous generation. Joblot’s new microscope permitted precise focusing by eliminating stray light and enabling the mounting of a diverse array of specimens. The microbes became clearer and more visible. He would refer to the microbes he observed in terms such as “fishes” or “caterpillars”, or even provide mirthful names such as “slipper”, “gobbler”, or “bagpipes”.

Public reaction to these microbes:

“In Paris, towards the end of the month of
June of the same year, and all the rest of the
summer, it was difficult to find vinegar in
which there were no eels. Thus many people
who had seen them with our Microscopes
stopped eating salad. I told them that the eels
were about a hundred thousand times smaller
than they appeared with these instruments;
that the heat of the stomach killed them in an
instant…”(translated from the French)

Joblot’s florid description of the creatures visible under the microscope:

“…in an instant a dozen fishes differing
from each other and so strange to see and
observe that I do not think that the entertainment
of Comedy, of the Opera with all its magnificence,
of rope dancers, acrobats or the animal
fights that we can see in this superb City,
could be preferred to it.” (translated from the French)

Jablot’s compound microscope design

observations of the common fly

cross-section of a hazel branch

dancing microbes

Joblot, Louis. Observations d’histoire naturelle, faites avec le microscope :sur un grand nombre d’insectes, & sur les animalcules qui se trouvent dans les liqueurs préparées, & dans celles qui ne le sont pas, &c. avec la description & les usages des différens microscopes, &c. Paris : Briasson, 1754-1755. 
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Sugar – the miracle drug

Pierre Pomet (1658-1699) was born in Paris on 2nd April, 1658. He traveled extensively throughout Europe, gaining experience, recipes, and plant specimens for his studies. Upon his return, he opened his own apothecary store in Paris. He quickly gained a solid reputation amongst the medical community and regularly published a drug catalog from his vast collection. In 1694, he first wrote his “Histoire Générale des Drogues”, which was soon acknowledged as the most authoritative and comprehensive book on drugs at that time. It appeared in a folio edition in 1694, but later republished in a new edition in 1735 as two quarto volumes. Pomet’s success and influence lead to his appointment as the chief druggist to Louis XIV. His book was, and still is, recognized as a breakthrough in European understandings of the new medicines and natural products being opened up via colonial expansion into the tropics. The publication was a manual not only on the substances now recognized as ‘drugs,’ but for a broad range of medicines, intoxicants, narcotics, pigments, spices, minerals, and animal products. This work is a complex combination of scientific study and mythical conjecture. Included in his work are such oddities as the use of mummies, fossils, and unicorns in cures and treatment.

Pomet on the benefits of sugar:

“The white and red sugar-candy are better for rheums, cough.-, colds-, catarrhs, asthmas, wheezings, than common sugar; because, being harder, they take longer time to melt in the mouth, and keep the throat and stomach moister than sugar does. Put into the eyes, in line powder, it takes away their dimness, and heals them, being blood-shot; it cleanses old sores, being strewed gently on them.” Pierre Pomet–translated from the French

Pomet on the use of Opium:

 “Opium procures blessed rest by its viscous and sulphureous particles, which, being convey’d to the channels of the brain, agglutinates and slows down the animal spirits…good sleep ensues for the senses…..it composes the Hurry of the Spirit, causes Rest and Insensibility, is comforting and refreshing, in Great Watchings and strong Pains; provokes Sweat powerfully; helps most Diseases of the Breast and Lungs; as Coughs, Colds, Cattarhs, and Hoarseness; prevents or allays Spitting of Blood, vomiting and all Lasks of Bowels”

Pomet on how to choose a good mummy”

 ”Choose what is of a fine shining Black, not full of Bones and Dirt, of a good Smell, and which being burnt, does not stink of Pitch”

Pierre Pomet–translated from the French

Indigo production in the New World

The Big Three- coffee, cocoa, and vanilla

Silk production

Rolling and preparing tobacco

The annatto seed used for paint pigment and healing qualities

Mummies for medicine?

Calling the flies

Whale rendering

Unicorns–all 5 varieties?

Pomet, Pierre. Histoire generale des drogues, simples et composeés [sic] :renfermant dans les trois classes des vegetaux, des animaux & des mineraux, tout ce qui est l’objet de la physique, de la chimie, de la pharmacie, & des arts les plus utiles à la societé des hommes : ouvrage enrichi de plus de quatre cens figures en taille-douce, tirées d’après nature, avec un discours qui explique leurs differens noms, les pays d’où elles viennent, la maniere de connoître les veritables d’avec les falsifiées, & leurs proprietés : où l’on découvre l’erreur des anciens & des modernes. A Paris : Chez Etienne Ganeau & Louis-Etienne Ganeau fils …, 1735.
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