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The online auction of The Herman Melville Collection of William S. Reese, September 1-14, 2022, was eagerly anticipated in American Literature research circles, library special collections circles, and trophy-hunting collecting circles. Results were impressive. The Christie’s sale realized nearly $3,000,000 for 100 lots, though not all were hammered down. There were sky-high bids for presentation copies of Melville’s works, annotated titles from Melville’s library, and letters in the author’s hand. Perhaps the most remarkable moment of the sale came, in overtime, when Melville’s heavily annotated copy of Dante, purchased in June 1848 for $2.12, went for $441,000.

Houghton Library’s Department of Modern Books and Manuscripts, which curates Harvard’s incomparable Melville collection, did very well in bidding at the sale, winning each of the six lots on which it offered. The department pursued archival additions to established research collections and individual items meant to round out existing strengths.

The library owns the largest collection of annotated books from Melville’s shelves, now adding to that number by acquiring lot 671, Kearsleys’ Stranger’s Guide, or Companion through London and Westminster, and the Country Round (London: [1791?]) (Sealts, Melville’s Reading, 304a). This family copy was first acquired and signed by father Allan Melvill in Paris in December 1807, and then by son Herman in New York City, July 6, 1850. Scholars have linked this long-held family volume to passages in Redburn (1849) and Israel Potter (1854).

book open to title page, Kearsley’s Stranger's Guide to London, and fold out map (of London in the 18th century)Kearsleys’ Stranger’s Guide, London [1791?]. Credit: Christie’s

Lot 665 consisted of a collection of Allan Melvill’s business and family documents, letters, manuscripts, and ephemera, 1801-1822 (in English and French). Allan failed in business in Manhattan in 1830 and retreated, discredited and deeply in debt, to Albany, the home of his wife’s family, the Gansevoorts. He died delirious of a fever in January 1832, leaving his widow and eight children, including 12-year-old Herman, his second son, in reduced circumstances. This collection fits nicely with other (sometimes grim) family business-related papers from the same period in the Houghton Melville Collection, while also documenting in detail the logistical and financial challenges, even in good times, of Allan’s fancy French goods import business.

Lots 637 and 653 each offered a manuscript note from Melville to his publishers, and I won’t object if readers think that these notes document in detail the logistical and financial challenges, in less than good times, of a certain writer’s “export” business. Melville’s note to George Putnam, May 1854, acknowledges the rejection of his satirical sketch “The Two Temples,” dodges a request for a daguerreotype, and promises to submit “ere long” to his publishers some other “things” for consideration “to which, I think, no objection will be made on the score of tender consciences of the public” (the editor of Putnam’s had found Melville’s “T3” satire of Grace Church too “pungent”). Houghton owns the only known source for the text for “The Two Temples,” a fair copy of the two-part sketch in the hand of Augusta Melville, Herman Melville’s younger sister and frequent copyist/decipherist. The piece was never published in the author’s lifetime. The second note (“Pittsfield May 18th [1859?]”) is addressed to “Gentlemen” (presumably Harper & Brothers) and submits accompanying “short pieces” for consideration for magazine publication. The “short pieces” remain intriguingly unidentified; no work by Melville appeared in Harper’s or in any magazine in the late 1850s or early 1860s. The first note is published in the Correspondence volume of the Northwestern-Newberry edition of The Writings of Herman Melville (pages 261-262). The second note does not appear in Correspondence, though a similar note to Harper & Brothers does appear on page 336.

book open to title page, Kearsley’s Stranger's Guide to London, and fold out map (of London in the 18th century)

On the rejection of “Two Temples” and refusing to be photographed. Herman Melville, 16 May 1854. Credit: Christie’s

Curator Leslie Morris’s final success with Melville materials at the sale was the purchase of lot 691, William Clark Russell’s letter in 1893 to Edmund C. Stedman, the NYC “broker-poet” and Melville’s E. 26th St. neighbor.  Stedman was also Melville’s occasional editor/correspondent, drop-by visitor, and reading material lender.  In this letter Russell discusses, among other things, the reprintings of Typee, Omoo, White-Jacket, and Moby-Dick in 1892 (the year after Melville’s death), edited and introduced by Stedman’s son Arthur. Russell was also a fiction writer on life at sea, was Melville’s late-in-life British champion, and was the dedicatee of Melville’s privately printed collection of poems, John Marr and Other Sailors with Some Sea-Pieces, in 1888. Houghton owns not only the dedication copy of John Marr, inscribed to Russell, but also the correspondence of Melville’s widow, Elizabeth Shaw Melville, regarding the publication of those 1892 reprints of four Melville early titles.

All Melville purchases at the Reese sale were made with income from the Robert G. Newman (MA ’35) Library Leaders Fund.

The library’s non-Melville winning bid at the auction came on lot 697, Rockwell Kent’s manuscript journal and sketchbook from his travels in Greenland in the early 1930s. Houghton owns other watercolors by Kent based on these Greenland adventures.  All but one other Kent lot in the auction was related to his work as an illustrator of Melville.

Complete Reese auction lot descriptions and results (as well as other images of Houghton’s haul) are available on Christie’s website.

Parting advice to Melville enthusiasts: mark up your copies of Sealts and Northwestern-Newberry Correspondence accordingly, and start saving up commensurately for the next appearance of Melville’s Dante on the market.

Thanks to Dennis C. Marnon, retired Administrative Officer of Houghton Library, for contributing this post.

The Houghton library recently acquired the manuscript of a novel by Georges Bataille (1897-1962), the French surrealist and existentialist writer whose work spans genres from pornography to economic theory, poetry, philosophy, and some intensely personal novels. In fact this manuscript is for a novel that doesn’t even have a single title: it was first published as Histoire de rats (Story of Rats, 1947), then as a section of Haine de la poésie (Hatred of Poetry, also 1947), before reaching its final form as a section of L’Impossible (The Impossible, 1962). This changing of titles (and rearranging of contents) was not unusual for Bataille, who worked from a constantly shifting set of plans, most of which remained unfinished.

Histoire de ratsHaine de la poésie, L’impossible is Bataille’s most beautiful and mysterious book. It is both spontaneous and distilled, a bewildering ride through strip clubs, erotic social evenings, theological disputations, snowy forests and hills, a gloomy chateau, a deformed servant, a hunting rifle, and a lovely, troubled girl—a girl who inspires a love so intense that it destroys all language and structure around it, eventually destroying even the narrative itself, smashing it into disconnected paragraphs and then lines and sentences that feel like desperate lonely witnesses to a catastrophe. But in the midst of this breakdown, a human voice accompanies the reader. It is this voice, I believe, that attracts people to Bataille – people who, for different reasons, turn to his body of works for a stabilizing, humane reference point in a world disrupted by change and catastrophe.

The manuscript acquired by Houghton is the original first draft of Histoire de rats, the main novelistic section of L’Impossible. This manuscript was unknown to scholars until the winter of 2021, when it was sold at auction during the heart of the Covid lockdown.[1] When the auction was over, it looked as though the manuscript would disappear again into private hands, but in the fall of 2021 the word got out that the buyer was a bookseller: Librairie Métamorphoses in Paris. Thankfully, this bookseller wanted to place the book in a public collection, and Houghton Library was able to raise the funds to make this happen. The manuscript was acquired in the summer of 2022, joining another important Bataille manuscript, Le Bleu du ciel (The Blue of Noon), which Houghton acquired in 1985.

blue ink on grid paper enclosed in grey box

First page of manuscript draft for Histoire de Rats. MS Fr 754, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Le Bleu du ciel and L’Impossible are Bataille’s two most accomplished novels, and they are major works of 20th century literature. One (Bleu du ciel) is realistic and political, a tale of leftist activists in pre-Civil War Spain; the other (L’Impossible) is surrealistic and subjective, a tortured love story set in Paris and in a snowy region of central France. Between them, the two manuscripts make Houghton into an important center for Bataille scholarship.

When the authoritative “Pléiade” edition of Bataille’s fiction was being prepared in the early 2000s, the earliest known manuscript for L’Impossible was the manuscript of Histoire de rats held by the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin. That manuscript had been acquired in the 1970s by the American collector Carlton Lake, from Bataille’s friend and fellow surrealist Georges Hugnet.[2] It was clearly not the first version of the novel, however, since it began life as a fair copy which Bataille then revised and corrected. The manuscript just acquired by Houghton is the original first draft.

The manuscript consists of a small pocket notebook which, when opened, fairly explodes with contradictory intentions: words are crossed out, rewritten, and overwritten, whole paragraphs are carefully cross-hatched into oblivion, and occasional dated entries suggest a diarist intention, but novelistic section titles suggest an intent to fictionalize. Words are written in pen, in pencil, carefully or in haste, sometimes added in such a tiny hand that a magnifying glass is needed to decipher them. Every page is a palimpsest of these different creative or destructive energies, and reveals the workshop of Bataille’s creative process at its most passionate and chaotic.

The manuscript was auctioned in 2021 with the estate of Paul Destribats, a prestigious collector of avant-garde books who had worked as a commodities trader. Destribats kept this manuscript in a specially-made leatherbound box which also housed a luxury first edition of the book, Histoire de rats, illustrated with engravings by the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). The box that housed the manuscript and first edition was created in 1972 by the modernist bookbinder Pierre-Lucien Martin (1913-1985), and was presumably commissioned by Destribats though this is not known for certain. The box is pleasant to handle, understated yet luxurious. Its leather surfaces are slightly scuffed by previous readers, and a small drawer slides out of the spine to reveal the manuscript notebook, nestled in a tailor-made compartment. Another sleeve in the spine houses the printed book, bound in a hard, glossy, bakelite material. The pages within are of beautiful thick paper, and the fine metallic lines of Giacometti’s etchings shine forth from them occasionally with the turning of a page. Thus the manuscript, the illustrated first edition, and their box compose an integrated whole, which is not just an object of study but also of stylish elegance, functionality, sensuality, and artistic beauty.

Book and manuscript for Histoire de Rats by Georges Bataille. Case made by bookbinder Pierre-Lucien Martin (1913-1985). MS Fr 754, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Prior to Destribats, the manuscript and the book had belonged to Yves Breton, a prosperous “notaire” (contract lawyer) in Avignon who purchased manuscripts from Bataille in the 1950s.[3] Although unrelated to the surrealist leader André Breton, Yves was interested in surrealism, and in 1951 he commissioned Bataille to write down his memories of the movement. Bataille was able to produce only a short piece, “Le Surréalisme au jour le jour” [Surrealism day-to-day], which is nonetheless an important document for understanding the early history of the movement. It was in the same year 1951 that Yves Breton also bought the manuscript of Histoire de rats. The Giacometti-illustrated first edition carries an undated inscription by Bataille to Yves Breton on the title page, and a second inscription on a back page in Bataille’s hand, dated 29 July 1951.

The purchase of manuscripts and first editions by collectors was a form of patronage common in the French literary world of the 20th century, and one which Bataille, often short of cash, often availed of. This cultural practice ensured that the writer got an appreciable sum of cash for an object that had little or no market value, in exchange for which the collector got a piece of the writer’s inner world which he alone would covet, until some future time when he might sell it to another collector. Bataille sold manuscripts or parts of manuscripts in this way to a number of collectors, often joining the manuscript to a first edition of the finished book, and addressing a letter to the collector that explained where the manuscript pages fit into the composition process.

Thus the luxurious binding of Houghton’s new acquisition, and its complicated combination of formats and inscriptions, are a window into Bataille’s social life as well as to his compositional process. Like many French avant-garde writers, Bataille wrote for a small elite audience: his print runs rarely exceeded 3,000 copies, often just a few hundred. In spite of the chaos and transgressionality of his themes, Bataille was an artist who created for the luxury market. Only after his death did theorists like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes and Jean Baudrillard bring his work to the attention of a wider audience.

[1] Christie’s Live auction 18402, “Paul Destribats : une bibliothèque des avant-gardes, partie III”, Paris, 2 February 2021, lot no. 28.

[2] Carlton Lake, Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist, New York: New Directions, 1990, chapter 6.

[3] On Yves Breton’s relationship with Bataille, see the memoir by Yves’s son Jean Breton, Un Bruit de fête: journal, réflexions, récit (Paris: Le Cherche-Midi, 1990), p. 73.

Thanks to researcher Wes Wallace for contributing this post.

Houghton Library’s incomparable Melville collection holds priceless literary manuscripts, important original letters, his and his father’s travel journals, Melville family documents and correspondence, nineteenth-century family photographs, and the sublime Eaton oil portrait (1870) of the author. Harvard also owns the largest number of books from HM’s library in public or private hands. Melville’s library is estimated to have contained 1,000 volumes at the time of his death. Approximately half stayed in the family, with the rest carted away by Manhattan and Brooklyn booksellers. Most of the family holdings were long ago donated to research libraries with strong Melville family archives: Houghton, the New York Public Library, and the Berkshire Athenaeum. For many decades now, Harvard has been a major center for Melville studies in general and for editorial work on his manuscripts, his reading, and his marginalia in particular.

Sigla, or guide, to Melville's marginalia symbols

From Melville’s Marginalia, by Wilson Walker Cowen, 1965. Harvard University Archives, HU 90.8730.15

As a graduate student in the university’s English Department in the early 1960s, Wilson Walker Cowen took advantage of Houghton’s rich holdings at the time, as well as those of other research libraries and private collections, to compile his massive eleven-volume PhD dissertation Melville’s Marginalia, submitted in 1965. His thesis covered all Melville’s then-known marginalia. Cowen presented, in typescript, passages from volumes that Melville had marked or annotated, and then he reproduced in quasi-facsimile Melville’s signatures/dates of acquisition, scores, underlinings, distinctive marks of emphasis, and comments accompanying those marked passages. Though dozens of annotated volumes from Melville’s library have been recovered since 1965, quite a few with extensive and important marginalia, Cowen’s work remains valuable to scholarship today because many volumes covered by his dissertation, at Houghton and elsewhere, have not yet been digitized and mounted online.

Title page of Cowen's thesis, Melville's Marginalia. 1965, Harvard University Archives, HU 90.8730.15

Title page of Melville’s Marginalia, by Wilson Walker Cowen, 1965. Harvard University Archives, HU 90.8730.15

The importance of Cowen’s work was immediately understood, and commercial microfilm and, later, commercial print-on-demand versions were offered for sale. In 1987, the for-profit publisher Garland reproduced Cowen’s work on a reduced scale (two very large folio volumes, it’s true, but with four Cowen pages to one Garland page to capture those nearly 5,700 images). Microfilm, micro-print-on-demand, and commercially published versions are either no longer available on the first-hand market or not easily come-atable (a Hermanism) on the second-hand market (and chokingly expensive when they do appear). Beyond that, they are all awkward and eye-fatiguing to use.

My last act as retiring Bibliographical Editor of the scholarly website Melville’s Marginalia Online was to plan, fund (at an astonishingly low cost—thank you, Harvard Library Imaging Services), and set in motion the digitization of the Cowen dissertation.  Charles Wilson Cowen, WWC’s son, has given permission to both Melville’s Marginalia Online and Harvard Library for different protocols to make his father’s work and legacy available in an open-access environment. The digitizing work (those nearly 5,700 images) was completed in the spring of 2021; eleven huge PDFs were added, with unrestricted access, to the bibliographic record in HOLLIS earlier this fall; and a few weeks ago Harvard University Archives staff updated the record and added comprehensive contents notes to help scholars access particular volumes or PDFs with precision. Those PDFs are enormous and often take some time to load. Nevertheless, Cowen’s work is now available for all to study, with Melville’s Marginalia now permanently back “in print.”

The website Melville’s Marginalia Online (which you really should visit) offers contextual information on Melville’s reading and marginalia, fully digitized copies of dozens of annotated titles from Melville’s library, along with a definitive catalog of books known to have been owned or borrowed by Melville and his family. The listings are faithfully kept current, incorporating recent booksellers’ or auction offerings or surprise discoveries/recoveries. Integration of the Cowen files into MMO’s search and analysis protocols will take some time.  For now—though not ideal—searching the PDFs through HOLLIS will provide scholars and enthusiasts access from anywhere and on any platform to Cowen’s presentation of Melville’s interactions, pencil(usually)-in-hand, with other writers’ works.

Black and white portrait of Wilson Walker Cowen in black suit and tie in front of bookshelves.

Wilson Walker Cowen, undated.

For various forms of assistance and support, I am grateful to Charles W. Cowen, to Houghton Library staff, particularly Leslie Morris and Christine Jacobson in Modern Books and Manuscripts (the department that curates the Melville collection), to the editors and staff of Melville’s Marginalia Online, to Harvard Library Imaging Services (especially to my chief contact throughout the long project, Tom Lingner), and to Harvard University Archives staff (especially to Kate Bowers, who updated the HOLLIS record for Melville’s Marginalia and added those invaluable contents notes). Behind the Harvard staff members mentioned by name above stand whole teams of university librarians and administrators who help to see such projects to completion, advance scholarship, and open up Harvard-held resources to all.

Thanks to Dennis C. Marnon, retired Administrative Officer of Houghton Library, for contributing this post.

Cataloging work continues on Harvard College Library’s recently acquired collection of over 20,000 zines. Zines are non-commercial, non-professional and small-circulation publications that their creators produce, publish and either trade or sell themselves. For access to the collection, contact the Modern Books & Manuscripts department.

Our previous post noted the ways in which the cartoon art of zines serves to lessen the distance between humans and their gods, often through a rewriting of how gods interact with humans. Conventional religious ideas are challenged in yet another way by a collection of stories in the zine Monday, written and published by Andy Hartzell in 2005. Hartzell chooses to depict Adam and Eve’s relationship with God, and, more specifically, to examine what happens on the Monday following God’s “day of rest.” He portrays the Garden of Eden as idyllic, though in this retelling, it’s God who spoils the paradise and not Eve.

Illustrated cartoon map of the Garden of Eden with four gates, from the inside covers of the zine Monday

Map of the Garden of Eden on the inside covers of Monday, Part 2

At one point the reader sees Adam and Eve admiring God’s creations. Eve suddenly decides to draw what she sees as a way of preserving a memory. Adam wonders if this is allowed, and in doing so, the cartoonist cleverly raises the question of free will and suggests that the act of drawing is a kind of challenge to God.

But there are other problems in the Garden of Eden. The snake (who, we learn, has reasons to resent God and therefore to cause a rift between God and his creations) tells the humans that “word has it that the Birthplace is deserted. Not just deserted – desecrated. Like he [God] got fed up with the whole project and started smashing things…And he didn’t even say goodbye.” So, Eve decides to look for God, and finds that he is rather annoyed at being disturbed. In the chaos that follows, Adam is injured, and as God restores him to health, we see a nod to Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, perhaps the most famous depiction of an encounter between man and God. The God in this zine may be apologetic, but he is preoccupied with his next creation.

Cartoon panel depicting Eve making a drawing to capture a moment in time, with Adam questioning whether that’s allowed, from the zine MondayMonday, Part 1, pages 5-6

God wants to move beyond the creation of humans, and reveals he is in the process of creating a new creature, telling them, “At the risk of seeming overconfident, I predict this creature will be my grand achievement.” Eve replies, “But I thought we were your grand achievement.” God says, “Oh, you were, you were. Of week one. Week two is going to be a whole new story.” (Hartzell, 2003, page 30)

In this narrative, then, we see that God is in some ways weak, unable to tell where to stop with his creations, at least according to the snake. God also seems to abandon his human creations. The Michelangelo-inspired scene depicted in this zine shows more of a repaired rupture than the grand act of creation. In this way, the zine reimagines the classic scene of creation as one in which God is shown to be more vulnerable, giving Adam and Eve more independence from his creator.

Cartoon version of Michelangelo’s Genesis, in which God comically says “Bam!” from the zine Four years of art school for this?” width=

Another inversion of Michelangelo’s masterpiece is carried to an extreme in the zine Four Years of Art School for This? Here we see a new version of The Creation of Adam, with the act of creation transformed into what looks like a much more casual encounter between God and man.

This zine places Renaissance art in conversation with modern sensibilities dictated by the stick-figure cartoon medium. While there is at times a challenge, there is also an almost humorous intimacy between humans and gods.

Drawing of a medieval scribe showing a dove coming down from heaven while a devil is standing on his desk, from the back cover of the zine Monday

As you may have noticed, another common theme runs through these zines. By focusing on the role of the cartoonist—who, like Eve, tries to freeze the moment in a kind of eternal gesture—these zines convey special powers on the part of the artistic creator. This is especially apparent on the back cover of Andy Hartzell’s Monday, which portrays a scribe whose connection with God (in this case represented by the dove) is colored by a broader range of human experience since we also see a devil lurking near.  The artist may be close to God, but he is master of his own creation.


Last two images:

Four years of art school for this? page 2

Back cover of Monday, Part 1


Nobody. Four years of art school for this? Publisher Unknown, Undated.

Hartzell, Andy. Monday, Part 1. Emeryville, CA:  Global Hobo Distro, 2003.

Hartzell, Andy. Monday, Part 2. Emeryville, CA:  Global Hobo Distro, 2005.

Thanks to Anna Ryerson, cataloging assistant in the Modern Books and Manuscripts Department, for contributing this post.

Cataloging work continues on Harvard College Library’s recently acquired collection of over 20,000 zines. Zines are non-commercial, non-professional and small-circulation publications that their creators produce, publish and either trade or sell themselves. For access to the collection, contact the Modern Books & Manuscripts department.

The graphic novel Persepolis illustrates the experience of its author, Marjane Satrapi, growing up during the Iranian revolution. This work features multiple conversations between the young Marjane and a cartoon version of God, as she transitions from wanting to be a prophet to criticizing God for allowing her uncle to be killed. In one amusing panel, the author brings together her image of God and that of Karl Marx, as she tries to reconcile their philosophies. In these ways, the comic format allows for an intimate yet challenging interchange between humans and God.

Cartoon comparing the similar side profiles of God and Karl Marx, from the graphic novel Persepolis

Persepolis, page 13

The Do-It-Yourself nature of zines, self-published magazines with limited circulation, shares  characteristics with graphic novels such as Persepolis. Along with text, this flexible medium often includes comics which depict a message-driven narrative. Since the writers/publishers of zines are often nonconformists who use their stories to challenge social norms, it’s not surprising that religion is a common subject. The informal comic narrative of the zine with its creative depictions presents still more interesting interactions between the human protagonists and a variety of gods.

Horus, by Johane Matte, named after the Egyptian falcon-god Horus, was first published in zine format in 2003. The narrative begins with an infant god (later identified as Horus) who is introduced to Nofret, a young Egyptian girl, as she is collecting water. Falcons call down to her, begging her to protect their son, and she senses at once that he is a god. But she feels unprepared for this moment and asks, “What do you want me to do? Go to the temple? Become a priestess? A chantress?” (Matte, 2003, page 6)

Despite her initial confusion, Nofret takes up the challenge of protecting this figure. However, the community is suspicious and fearful of Horus at first, fearing that he might be an evil demon. Later, once the King and his advisors realize a god is walking among them, they attempt to separate Nofret from Horus in order to take the little god into their sphere of influence.

Cartoon panel showing how various Egyptians, including priests, try to avoid taking responsibility for the new Falcon god Horus, leaving him in the care of Nofret, from the zine Horus

Horus #2, page 4

There are many interesting aspects of the god-human relationship at play in this zine. While gods are typically treated with reverence, Matte turns this on its head by exploring what would really happen if a god walked among us. Who would blame humans for suspecting a bird-headed figure of being a source of evil? Secondly, Matte probes the potential class and power dynamics between gods and humans. Though the god Horus was historically seen as the protector of the Pharaoh, in this zine he allies himself with a poor, common girl. As a result, the difference in power between Horus the god and Nofret the human is less stark.

A different kind of challenge is apparent in the zine Heathens Idolize School Prayer, by the “Aquarian Tabernacle Church” published in 1996. In this work, a variety of characters—who appear to be Vikings and perhaps representatives of the Norse gods themselves—decide to confront a school official about the issue of school prayer, suggesting that school prayers be extended to their gods as well.

Here the author is less interested in the power or the privilege of class. Instead, the writer is protesting the imposition of one set of religious beliefs over another. In this case, the gods themselves are depicted only in the background, and the conversation is between representatives of different religious persuasions. The publishers of this zine are promoting an alternative theology and using the issue of school prayer to make their case. Like Matte’s Horus, the gods are less distant and more closely allied with the humans who champion their cause.

Cartoon panel in which the Vikings further argue that their beliefs should be respected because the days of the week are named after their gods, from the zine Heathens Idolize School Prayer

Heathens Idolize School Prayer, pages 8-9

In all these examples, zines use cartoon images to make a variety of gods smaller and more approachable. At the same time, the authority and power of these deities, and the power structures they represent, are also challenged, whether through a rewriting of the god’s relationship with social class (as in Horus) or through the insistence on many gods rather than a singular more powerful deity (as in Heathens Idolize School Prayer). As a result, the gap between humans and their god(s) is narrowed.


Aquarian Tabernacle Church. Heathens Idolize School Prayer. Index, WA: Pathfinder Press, 1996.

Matte, Johane. Horus #2. Montreal, Canada: Ruff Toon, 2004.

Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007.

Thanks to Anna Ryerson, cataloging assistant in the Modern Books and Manuscripts Department, for contributing this post.

Houghton recently acquired a nineteenth-century bilingual manuscript of Ukrainian and Russian folk songs and verse. At first glance, the work seems unremarkable. At 370 pages, it contains over 120 poems and songs, including well-known works by Alexander Pushkin and Taras Shevchenko as well as many popular songs from the period. Certain details, however, render the object extraordinary. The author of the manuscript copied these verses in a flawless and painstaking stylized script; he also provided page numbers, a table of contents, and title pages complete with dates and place of production. Who would go to such trouble over these common verses and why?

Sbornyk ukrainskykh pisenʹ y stykhov ... sbornik russkikh pi͡esenʹ i stikhov, 1875-1880, MS Slavic 26

Sbornyk ukrainskykh pisenʹ y stykhov … sbornik russkikh pi͡esenʹ i stikhov, 1875-1880, MS Slavic 26. Purchased with the Bayard L. Kilgour, Jr. Fund for Russian Belles-Lettres and the FHCL Ukrainian National Home of Lorain Ohio Book Fund.

The manuscript was composed by Mykola Makukhin between 1875 and 1880 in Kharkiv, the seat of a western province in the Russian empire (and today the second largest city in Ukraine). Not much is known about Makukhin other than the fact he lived in Kharkhiv and his father taught Russian history at the Kharkhiv Ecclesiastical Seminary. This leaves us with little information to guess at his motivations for assembling such a work.

The manuscript reveals that Makukhin was an amateur poet himself—several simple acrostic poems toward the end are attributed to him. It’s possible that the book served as an unusually fastidious commonplace book where Makukhin could record his sources of inspiration.

Another explanation, however, is that Makukhin compiled the manuscript as a radical act of cultural preservation and political protest.

Since the 17th century, the area that now makes up the nation of Ukraine had been under the control of the Russian empire. The empire thought of this region as “Little Russia” and its inhabitants as “Little Russians.” Apart from the occasional Cossack rebellion or Polish-led insurrection, the empire succeeded in maintaining control of the region and exporting Russian culture to their “little Russian” subjects. The fact that the inhabitants of the region spoke a different language did not trouble the imperial government, which regarded it as a “dialect” of Russian. Moreover, Russian remained the dominant language of publication. In the 19th century, however, a distinct Ukrainian identity began to emerge—and with it, a literary language.

Ukrainian title page, MS Slavic 26

Title page in Ukrainian, MS Slavic 26

In the 1860s, the Ukrainian language flourished in print. Academic journals, folklore collections, primers, and polemical essays were published in their native language for the first time. Even a Ukrainian translation of the New Testament appeared but was quickly condemned by the Russian Orthodox church.

The appearance of Ukrainian in print represented the most serious challenge to imperial control of the region yet, since it threatened to define a sense of narod (loosely, “nationality”) separate from the Russian empire for a broader and newly emerging Ukrainian public. The New Testament translation particularly struck a chord with the imperial government and led to the “Valuev Circular,” an internal document circulated among imperial censors in 1863 by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Pyotr Valuev. In his secret decree, Valuev claimed, “the Ukrainian language never existed, does not exist, and shall never exist.” [1] The censors got the subtext and began rejecting popular works in Ukrainian.

Nonetheless, ideas about Ukrainian nationhood and identity continued to blossom. Publishers in Kiev began to print works in Russian on Ukraine’s own ethnography and culture, while small presses continued to publish modest works in Ukrainian. Some “Ukrainophiles” took over popular daily newspapers and published articles that argued for an independent Ukraine; others assumed high ranks in local branches of the imperial government, which became hotbeds for separatist activity.

Taras Shevchenko's poem, "Do Oasnov’anenka" ("To Osnovyanenko)

Taras Shevchenko’s poem, “Do Oasnov’anenka” (To Osnovyanenko), MS Slavic 26

As St. Petersburg received increasingly frantic reports on “Ukrainophile fervor,” the tsar decided to take action. In 1876, Alexander II issued a decree banning the publication of all books and song lyrics as well as public lectures, plays, or even musical performances in the “Little Russian dialect.” Known as the Emskii Ukaz or “Ems Decree” (because it was issued from the German spa town Bad Ems), this directive was much more effective at dramatically reducing the production and circulation of Ukrainian works than the Valuev circular.

Crucially, Makukhin’s manuscript dates from this volatile period for Ukrainian identity politics. Considering the threat to the Ukrainian language posed by the Valuev circular and later, by the Ems Decree, Makukhin’s manuscript starts to look less like a simple commonplace book, and more like a radical gesture. First, there’s no question about whether Makukhin believed Ukrainian was a “dialect” of Russian: the manuscript includes separate title pages for the Ukrainian and Russian sections, rendered in their respective languages, which underscores the fact that Makukhin believed the two languages were distinct. This was a dangerous opinion to hold in mid-19th century Russia.

Second, the work is interested specifically in song lyrics, which had been banned both from publication as well as performance. It’s difficult to draw firm conclusions about Makukhin’s work, but it is possible that Makukhin recorded these verses for posterity out of a concern that they would fade from public memory.

Another possibility is that Makukhin sought to publish the work during the renaissance in Ukrainian print. When he started in 1875, he would still have been able to inconspicuously publish the work in Kiev, (avoiding the St. Petersburg censors in Valuev’s pocket), but after the 1876 Ems Decree, even this was not possible. Makukhin continued to add verses to the manuscript through 1880, perhaps nursing the hope that the ban would be eventually lifted.

Folk song attributed to "N.N." for the latin, "nomen nescio" (anonymous)

Ukrainian folk song attributed to “N.N.” for the latin, “nomen nescio” (anonymous)

Indeed, many held out hope that not all would be lost after so much momentum had been gained. Writing to Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Drahomanov in 1877, fellow Ukrainian historian Mykola Kostomarov expressed his desire to see Ukrainian songs recognized across the world:

Who, knowing the unpredictability of our affairs, can be sure that the ban on singing Little Russian songs and staging Little Russian plays will not be succeeded by a time when the great people of our world will be enraptured by these songs and promote the well-being of the people’s creativity? [2]

In the following years, the restrictions of the Ems Decree were occasionally amended, but the ban was not fully lifted until the establishment of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1919. Unfortunately, Makukhin’s fate is unknown so it isn’t clear if he lived to see Ukrainian return to print. However, his manuscript survives in excellent condition to this day and certainly warrants closer inspection. We welcome readers’ hypotheses about Makukhin’s meticulous and mysterious manuscript and hope you’ll come by the reading room to see it yourself.

1. Alexei Miller, The Ukrainian Question: The Russian Empire and Nationalism in the Nineteenth Century. Translation by Olga Poato. New York: Central European University Press, 2003.

2. Dave Saunders, Excerpt from “Mykola Kostomarov (1817–1885) and the Creation of a Ukrainian Ethnic Identity.” Slavonica, July, 2013.

Thanks to Assistant Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts Christine Jacobson for contributing this post. 

A magnificent gift from the Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA) in March celebrates its 76-year-long association with Harvard University.

Portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt

The Roosevelt Memorial Association (now the TRA) presented its sizable library holdings—which included 12,000 books and pamphlets, 10,000 photographs, and thousands of letters, manuscripts, and other items—to Harvard University, Roosevelt’s alma mater, in 1943. This became the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, now housed in Harvard’s Houghton and Widener libraries. While much was an outright gift, a significant portion of the collection, both manuscripts and correspondence, was on deposit—owned by the TRA, but cataloged, preserved, and made available to researchers by Harvard.

The remaining deposited material has now been given to Harvard in appreciation of the Library’s careful stewardship of the collection over the years. Lieutenant Colonel Gregory A. Wynn, USMC (Ret.), a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the TRA, who oversaw the gift to Harvard, said “We are proud to continue and enhance our mutually supporting relationship with Harvard and Houghton Library.  The Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard has stewarded and built upon what the TRA proudly began. It is the most important destination for Theodore Roosevelt scholarship in the world, and we are proud to partner with Harvard in ensuring TR scholarship for future generations.”Travel diary kept while on a trip to Europe with his parents, age 11, 1869. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Am 1454.55 (5)

Thomas A. Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library, said “Harvard has been honored to steward the Roosevelt Collection for the past 76 years and we are very pleased to enhance our ability to promote study and understanding of Roosevelt, his family, and his times.  We thank the Theodore Roosevelt Association for their decades of partnership and the renewed trust they have demonstrated.”

The gift includes diaries and notebooks kept by TR from 1869; a scrapbook containing his Harvard examination papers on natural history, letters to and from TR, clippings and tickets; childhood correspondence; incoming and outgoing correspondence; manuscripts of his writings; the papers of TR’s sister, Anna Roosevelt Cowles; numerous photographs of TR and his family; and memorabilia. This material has been available for research at Houghton Library for some years, and much is now digitized and freely available.R letter to Anna Roosevelt Cowles; Elkhorn Ranch, April 29, 1885

Additionally, the Library has acquired new material from the TRA. This includes an important series of 10 unpublished letters to Roosevelt’s sister Anna Roosevelt Cowles (“Bamie”), covering the years of 1885 and 1890-1894.  These intimate letters discuss Dakota ranch life, politics, his period as Civil Service Commissioner, and their brother Elliott, and they fill a gap in the previously known and published letters from TR to Bamie.

A daguerreotype of his grandfather Cornelius V.S. Roosevelt, in an envelope inscribed by TR in 1915, is a unique addition to the Roosevelt Collection’s extensive series of family photographs. A letter from TR Sr. from 1861, during his service with the U.S. Allotment Commission in the Civil War, to the 3-year-old TR, is a touching document of a father’s love for his son.

Theodore Roosevelt Sr. to TR; Washington, D.C., December 31, 1861. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Am MS Am 1834.1 (335)

The entirety of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, including the newly acquired material, is available for research through the Houghton Reading Room.


  1. Portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
  2. Travel diary kept while on a trip to Europe with his parents, age 11, 1869. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Am 1454.55 (5). The flyleaf is inscribed “Writen [sic] by Theodore Roosevelt Jr. of New York U.S., N. A.” Gift of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, 2019.
  3. TR letter to Anna Roosevelt Cowles; Elkhorn Ranch, April 29, 1885. Anna Roosevelt Cowles Papers, Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Am 1834.1 (202a). TR was in mourning for his first wife, Alice, hence the black border to the stationery, and he writes “…I felt very tenderly to think of the darling wee baby calling for papa. I just long to see you both.” Purchased with Theodore Roosevelt Collection funds, the Harmand Teplow Class of 1920 Fund, the Bayard Livingston Kilgour and Kate Gray Kilgour Fund, and the Herman Dunlop Smith Bequest.
  4. Theodore Roosevelt Sr. to TR; Washington, D.C., December 31, 1861. Anna Roosevelt Cowles Papers, Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Am 1834.1 (335); pages 1 & 4. TR Senior gently urges obedience to his 3-year-old son: “Tedie, while I am away remember always to be very good and obey your mama the first time she speaks to you and help her like a big boy take care of your little brother Elli.” Purchased with the Louis J. Appell, Jr. A.B. 1947 Fund for Early American Literature and History.

Title Page of Vera's personal copy of Andrew Field's biography

Among the Nabokov family volumes recently added to Houghton Library’s catalog are several owned and annotated by Véra Nabokov. Vladimir’s wife of 52 years, Véra was indissolubly his literary partner as well: she read, edited, and translated his work, besides managing his business and legal affairs; attending his college courses and even teaching them when he fell ill; and innumerable other tasks. Apart from her amplification of Vladimir’s voice, we typically hear little from Véra herself: “the more you leave me out,” she once told biographer Brian Boyd, “the closer to the truth you will be.” (For further reading on the Nabokovs’ relationship, see this New Yorker article.) In the volume pictured here, though, Véra candidly disputes the work of another biographer, Vladimir’s first, through substantial marginalia.

VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov is Andrew Field’s third book-length study of Vladimir Nabokov. Field dedicated his career to the study of Nabokov – his first book brought the author’s early Russian-language work out of obscurity for a Western audience – and for a time won the author’s favor, and close access to him as a biographical source, as a result.

VN, published after Nabokov’s death, folds both of Field’s prior books, along with supplementary material, into a single critical biography, but one reflective of the soured relationship between author and subject. Gone are the quasi-Nabokovian structural flourishes that characterized the prior works; in their place are numerous speculations and leaps of logic. Reviews from the time of VN’s publication, such as this review from the London Review of Books and this one from the Washington Post, offer more detail on Field’s trajectory from protégé to outcast; on the questionable suppositions that characterize VN; and on the continued antipathy between Field and the surviving Nabokovs. For Brian Boyd’s own review, see the Times Literary Supplement, 21 April 1987, pages 431-2.

Vera's marginalia

Vera’s marginalia in Field’s biography.

Véra was a curator not only of Vladimir’s literary output and lifestyle but of his public figure, his image, his legacy. Inevitably, then, she and VN are at loggerheads throughout–Véra peppers the margins with question marks, exclamation points, and ‘no’ upon ‘no’, serially refuting Field’s conjectures and recreations.

Vera disputes Nabokov's presence at a funeral.

Vera disputes Nabokov’s presence at a funeral.

At times, she offers her contrasting memory of events: Field describes Nabokov’s aggressive behavior at a funeral; but Véra says he was not in attendance. Field characterizes Nabokov’s relations with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as “strained”; Véra writes: “there were no relations”. From brief marks of disbelief to lengthy explications, Véra’s comments amount to a considerable negation of Field’s text.


Field, Andrew, 1938- VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov. RC9.N1125.W986f

Thanks to bibliographic assistant Ryan Wheeler for contributing this post.

Title Page of Nabokov's Russian Grammar Among recent gifts to Harvard Library, the papers and books of the Nabokov family—Vladimir Nabokov, his wife Véra, and his son Dmitri—take pride of place. Jointly stewarded by Houghton Library and the Museum of Comparative Zoology (where Nabokov was curator of lepidoptery), the collection was given to Harvard University by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.  While most Nabokov papers reside at the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library, these materials were retained by Dmitri until his death in 2012. The papers are now being cataloged and will be available for research in 2019. In this post, we’ll focus on one of the richly annotated books that came with the collection.

While the collection includes numerous books by and about Vladimir Nabokov, annotated with corrections, questions, disputations, and other interferences, this book served a more workaday purpose: it is a Russian grammar, printed in 1942 and evidently used in teaching the subject. In the years during and following World War II, Nabokov taught Russian grammar and literature as a lecturer at Wellesley College. He was an established author in his homeland then, but a new arrival and relative unknown in the United States, and it would be another decade before Lolita would propel him both to fame and to infamy. In 1977, the New Yorker published an account of Nabokov’s Russian literature course from a student’s perspective, available

Title Page of Nabokov's Russian Grammar

The grammar text is densely annotated throughout, as Nabokov organized lessons and emphasized exercises; he also made corrections to the text in both Russian and English. Nabokov introduced the study of Russian language and literature to Wellesley, as wartime alliance with the U.S.S.R. spurred academic interest in the subject; this textbook is evidence of his process as he worked to bring his first language across to a new culture and a new generation. For example, a flyleaf in the rear of the book illustrates the complexity of Russian verbs —a difficulty for his students which Nabokov likely anticipated. Here Nabokov has written out twelve different ways of saying, “I read” (Я читаю) and “I write” (Я пишу) in the past tense.

Nabokov essay

Turning toward the volume’s endpapers, we find evidence of Nabokov’s multifarious intellect: blank leaves at the front and back are covered with observations on butterflies from Nabokov the lepidopterist. (For more on his six-year tenure at MCZ, see this post from the Ernst Mayr Library’s blog.) To add another layer, the books and papers in this collection also reflect Nabokov’s interest in, and authorship of, chess problems. Collectively, they offer new lenses through which to see this eminent literary family.

Nabokov essay

The books annotated by Vladimir Nabokov are available for research at Houghton Library, and can be found in HOLLIS.

Thanks to bibliographic assistant Ryan Wheeler for contributing this post.

Cataloging work continues on Harvard College Library’s recently acquired collection of over 20,000 zines. Zines are non-commercial, non-professional and small-circulation publications that their creators produce, publish and either trade or sell themselves. 

Zines, by their very nature, are unconventional in both form and content. So when zines address themes in classic literature, they often arrive at unusual and original views of those works.

Back cover of Animal Review #7For instance, Animal Review is described as a “fanzine of herbivorous youth” started in 1993 by Nell Zink. It contains musings on, sketches of, and stories about various animals, with a few music reviews mixed in for good measure. It also occasionally discusses literary animals. A short article on Moby Dick praises Herman Melville for having “researched everything ever written about whales (up to 1850)” in writing the book, despite some gaps in his knowledge that seem more egregious in the present day, such as his lack of understanding that whales are mammals. Not only for his painstaking research into whales, but also for his impressive breadth of sea monster mythology, Melville is crowned “the original and supreme animal reviewer!” (Zink, 7).

Two of Haruki Murakami’s novels, A Wild Sheep Chase and Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, are also reviewed positively on the back cover of this zine, due to the importance of animals in these stories. But in the very next issue of Animal Review, literary connections become a lot more abstract. On the cover of issue #8, the quote:

The future is a faded [newt], a Royal Rose or a lavender spray
Of wistful regret for those who are not yet here to regret
Pressed between yellow leaves of a book that has never been opened.Cover of Animal Review #8

…is attributed to “Eliot,” and accompanied by the image of a newt which is indeed “pressed between…leaves of a book.” This quote, absent any reference to newts in its original form, is in fact taken from T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Dry Salvages,” whereas Daniel Deronda, the book in which the newt finds himself pressed, is a work of George Eliot’s.

An article appearing later in the zine sheds light on this delightfully bizarre image. In “George Eliot’s newt connection,” Zink describes the axolotl (a type of salamander) and its potential for transformation into maturity after consuming thyroid glands, a transformation which he compares to Eliot’s own, from “one of those painfully immature Victorians who speak the language of flowers,” who “planned to devote her life to Protest fundamentalist contemplation” and “declared publicly that having sex (‘marriage’) would lead to an eternity in hell” to a woman “living in Italy with a cute married guy, writing novels with pagan and Jewish heroes, and acknowledging Sir Walter Scott as her spiritual master”—all of this after encountering Das Leben Jesu which Eliot translated from 1845 to 1846. As an afterthought, Zink claims that George Eliot “looked kind of like a newt, too” (Zink, 8).

Occasionally one encounters zines that have adapted literary classics. A striking example of this is David Lasky’s mini-comic, Ulysses, first published in 1991. At only about 10 pages —compared to Joyce’s work which usually clocks in around 730 pages— it is, as Lasky acknowledges, “by no means a substitute for the original work.”

Nonetheless, it accurately captures the relationships between Leopold Bloom and the other two main characters, Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus and takes an interesting approach to Molly Bloom’s stream-of-consciousness passage that ends the novel by interspersing her musings with some of the words and images which also derail her thoughts in the story.

The cover of David Lasky’s comic adaptation of Ulysses

The last page of David Lasky’s comic adaptation of Ulysses, concluding, as the novel does, with Molly’s inner-monologue









Several years later, in an issue of his zine series Boom Boom, Lasky recounts (also in comic format) how he first heard of, and became interested in adapting, Ulysses, and the reactions to his mini-comic, including a positive review from the Washington Post. This zine also contains new comics about figures important to James Joyce and the writing of his best-known novel. In one comic, Lasky illustrates the life of Nora Barnacle, Joyce’s wife. In another comic, he explains how Sylvia Beach, the owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, became the publisher of Ulysses, and details the challenges she faced after the book was banned.

a comic about Sylvia Beach’s life & work in Boom Boom #3

Introduction to a comic about Sylvia Beach’s life & work in Boom Boom #3, focusing on her time as publisher of Ulysses

Zines gamely venture into the genre of memoir as well. In an issue of Button, described as “New England’s Tiniest Magazine of Poetry, Fiction, and Gracious Living,” the authors discuss what can be learned from various diaries, including those of Samuel Pepys, Barbara Pym, and Anne Frank. One contributing writer, Sven Birkerts, discusses his own relationship with diaries:

The cover of Button, issue #8, with a drawing of a cave painting, compared by the editor to a diary.

It sometimes seems that I passed my whole youth starting, maintaining, and abandoning diaries… I maintained the diaries — for up to six months at a stretch — because in the absence of much creative output they at least gave me a sense of gaining on my dream of becoming a writer. And when I abandoned them it was, I think, because I could no longer endure the sound of my own pretenses, the coy fashion-show of writerly manners taken over wholesale from my heroes (Birkerts, 11).

The editor of Button also espouses the view of Magdalenian cave paintings as early precursors to diaries, which is cleverly reflected in the cover illustration of this issue: a man shining a flashlight on a cave-painting of an animal, a hand print, and three buttons.

Other zines involve literature in more political ways. Race Traitor is an anti-racist zine with the goal of abolishing “whiteness” as a societal framework, as well as abolishing white privilege. In its second issue, editors John Garvey and Noel Ignatiev explain the influence of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and its main character on the central message of their publication, “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” The editors expound on this statement by explaining that,

The cover of Race Traitor, featuring E. W. Kemble’s 1884 illustration the frontispiece of the 1885 American 1st edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnIn a certain sense, the entire project of Race Traitor is to examine, from every possible angle, the moment when Huck Finn (and all the modern Huck Finns) decide to break with what Huck calls “sivilization” and takes the steps that will lead to Jim’s (and their own) freedom (Garvey and Ignatiev, 40).

The scene in which Huck makes this decision is identified as a key turning point which has its basis, as does much of the novel, in autobiographical narratives of enslavement and escape from slavery. Following the editors’ note are three essays by Harvard students, which, the editors argue, speak to the story’s impact.

Though deserving of a broader survey, this brief review of selected zines demonstrates that the zine format, with its heavy use of illustrations, fluid boundaries with other written materials, and penchant for the political, can forge both original and creative statements about literary classics.

Thanks to Anna Ryerson, a graduate student at Simmons College, who worked in the Modern Books & Manuscripts department this past summer, for contributing this post.

Zines referenced:

Birkerts, Sven. “Abandoning Diaries,” in Button, #8. Lunenberg, MA: n.p., 1996. Print.
Garvey, John and Ignatiev, Noel. Race Traitor, #2. Cambridge, MA: The New Abolitionists, Inc., 1993.
Lasky, David. Boom Boom, #3: Tales of Brave Ulysses (James Joyce). Seattle: David Lasky, 1993. Print.
Lasky, David. Joyce’s Ulysses. Seattle, VA: David Lasky, 1993. Print.
Zink, Nell. Animal Review, #7 and #8. Jersey City: Nell Zink, 1994. Print.

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library. Thanks to Rachel Parker, Archival Assistant, for contributing this post.

In my first blog post on the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library poster collection, I demonstrated why maintaining context can help answer the questions that arise when titling posters for catalog records or finding aids. In this post I am going to present two examples from the LSD Library poster collection which demonstrate issues of complex text-image relationships, and the unique challenges of counterculture era ephemera. The examples below are all about copies, copies with different titles, copies with different visual styles, copies with different distributors, and “stolen” images.


The first example is a print by the artist and illustrator Rick Griffin. The first (of which there are two versions in the LSD collection) was printed by the San Francisco artist collective Berkeley Bonaparte in 1967 and is untitled (left). The second image is a silkscreen blacklight poster printed by Royal Screen Craft Inc. and distributed by Cocorico Graphics with the caption “San Mezcalito, the patron and protector of all those souls who dig herbs created by god to enlighten the minds of men” (right). To solve the problem of two different titles, I added a related materials note for all three versions of this print to the finding aid.

However, the relationship between these prints is left to the researcher to suss out. Berkeley Bonaparte was famous in its own right — what relationship did they have with Cocorico Graphics? Although some websites call the 1967 printing “Mezcalito man” there is no evidence that that was Griffin’s title. Blacklight posters also had a distinct purpose. Even though both posters are clearly drug related, the blacklight poster has an implicit relationship to LSD and a popular visual movement of the ‘70s which had become independent from the psychedelic rock scene it originated from. These copies, while the same image, exist in different decades, and different cultural significance. A persistent problem with cataloging posters is capturing this visual information, often implied and emblematic of a cultural movement. The best way to capture this information, barring including an image, is by providing as much publishing data as possible and recording the printing method. Luckily, images of each poster will be added to the finding aid in this case.


My second example of catalog/archival description in this collection is a Family Dog print. The Family Dog were psychedelic rock promoters in San Francisco who hired “The San Francisco Five,” a group of five poster artists who virtually defined the psychedelic art style in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The artists were Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, and Wes Wilson. This print is for a Family Dog production at the Avalon Ballroom and was printed by Mouse Studios (Kelley and Mouse). One is an artist proof signed by Mouse (left) and the other is signed by both Mouse and Kelley, printed by Mouse and hand colored by Kelley (right). All relatively simple information to convey in the description (barring any particular graphic difference); however, we’re missing one key fact: Mouse and Kelley handily repurposed this image from an 1896 Alphonse Mucha advertisement for JOB cigarette rolling papers [1]:


Mucha is also represented in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library poster collection elsewhere (so are JOB cigarette rolling papers) and was a pioneer Art Nouveau artist. So is the Jim Kweskin Jug band event poster actually telling a story about Kelley and Mouse as artists and about the psychedelic art movement as a whole? As it happens this disconnect between image and text was deliberate. Chet Helms, founder of the Family Dog, instructed his artists to pair images and event information that had little relation. Helms wanted the posters to convey a sense of atmosphere, often using images which tied the Psychedelic Rock posters to the peace movement. [2]

It is a luxury to catalog almost 780 posters in this collection at the item level, describing every single item in the collection rather than describing groups or series of items. But perhaps it is the only way to truly give access to them. Posters can tell so many different textual and visual stories all at once. They are designed to be seen from a distance and understood by the masses at a glance, making visual cues just as important as title information. As I’ve shown, a poster can tell the story of an entire movement while promoting a single band. Context is key, then, when formulating titles in catalog records.

Image 1: Untitled : Native American man, distributed by Berkeley Bonaparte, artwork by Rick Griffin : lithograph poster, 1967. MS Am 3135.

Image 2: San Mezcalito, the patron and protector of all those souls who dig herbs created by god to enlighten the minds of men. Silk screen by Royal Screen Craft Inc., Cocorico Graphics, artwork by Rick Griffin : blacklight poster, undated. MS Am 3135.

Image 3: Family dog presents Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Electric Train, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Avalon ballroom. Design by Mouse Studios : lithograph poster, undated. MS Am 3135.

Image 4: Family dog presents Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Electric Train, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Avalon ballroom. Design by Mouse Studios, hand colored by Kelley : lithograph poster, undated. MS Am 3135.

[1] Not part of the poster collection. Image taken from:

[2] Eric King’s Guide to Psychedelic Rock Posters volume 1

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library. Thanks to Rachel Parker, Archival Assistant, for contributing this post.

In May I began describing, photographing, and re-housing a discrete collection of posters within the Ludlow-Santo Domingo (LSD) Library collection. Tackling the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library poster collection has been exciting, in part because of the descriptive challenges in title creation. Having recently finished describing about 780 unique posters, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about posters as information carriers and the equal importance of text and image. As Susan Tschabrun, archivist, wrote in her 2003 article “Off the Wall and into a Drawer”[1] for the American Archivist, posters, like most ephemeral objects, were never meant to be primary source material and can be difficult to interpret and describe in a standard way because of their ‘temporariness.’ A poster’s text-image relationship often places it directly in a specific moment, movement, or cultural ethos. The posters in this collection tell inside jokes, represent events absent from history books, and speak a visual language that may mean the most to a very few.

Head out to Oz

Head out to oz, design by James McMullen : lithograph poster, undated. MS Am 3135.

The LSD Library posters are a perfect example of the complexity of this medium because the bulk were created during a movement breaking away from the known and the normalized. The counterculture movement, like many art, music, and cultural movements, was an underground movement for a decade before it was launched into the mainstream. Many early psychedelic images that sought to challenge the norm—with impossible-to-read fonts and colors and patterns created to mimic the effects of hallucinogens—are now mass-produced and ubiquitous in college dorm rooms. The LSD Library poster collection captures the transformation from underground to popular art, as well as almost a century’s- worth of iconographic metamorphosis in poster art.

So how does this complicated relationship between ephemerality, text-image symbolism, and the gradual adoption of underground art into the mainstream make archival description for a finding aid challenging? First we have to answer a different question: what is the title of a poster? Should every word on the poster be in the title? The most bold words? Is the title read like a sentence? Can you put visually separated word groups together in a sentence to create a title?

Let’s take for example the two posters below:

“Free the prisoners of weed!” has a lot of textual information. In this case, the boldest words coincidentally (or perhaps deliberately) can be pieced together to form a coherent title. These keywords place the poster in a political moment, give it a time and place, and hint at a larger cultural movement.

Conversely, for “Invisible Circus” almost all the language on the poster is preserved. Although at first glance it may not seem like a complex text-image relationship, in fact, these two elements of the poster are telling different stories. The performance or circus act being promoted with an image of a tiger and font in the shape of a gypsy wagon tells one story and the words tell another. The secondary purpose of this performance is a “72 hr environmental community happening.” Transcribing a long title in the catalog record or finding aid, though unwieldy, gives access to the researcher looking for circus acts and the research concerned with environmentalism and the peace movement.

The answer to our earlier questions is therefore not a matter of format but context. The words on the poster, how bold they are, how much wordage there is, matters less than conveying the context through the title. That means including artists, sponsors, distributors, and venues as well as the boldest title text, and sometimes text with less visual importance.

In my next blog post I will address my original concern: how does the relationship of text and image and the particular countercultural context of the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library poster collection make titling posters a challenge for catalogers?

[1] Page 305

Image 2: Free the prisoners of weed! 4th annual Washington D.C. smoke-in & impeach Nixon march, Youth International Party : poster, 1973. MS Am 3135.

Image 3: Invisible circus, a 72 hr environmental community happening, sponsored by the Diggers Artist Liberation Front, Glide Foundation, Glide Church, designed by Dave Hodges : poster, 1967. MS Am 3135.

The archive of Greek poet and lyricist Nikos Gatsos has found a permanent home at Harvard Library. The acquisition is a key addition to the Library’s collections in Greek literature and civilization and will be made available to students and scholars around the world.

Nikos Gatsos (1911-1992) had a profound influence on the post-war generation of Greek poets. Writing of both loss and hope, Gatsos’s unique blend of surrealism, symbolism and folk song created intense admiration and assured his place alongside his friends, Nobel laureates Odysseas Elytis and George Seferis, as one of the great twentieth-century Greek poets.

The poet at 28 years old (1939-40)

The poet at 28 years old (1939-40).

A celebration of the acquisition, “The Gatsos I Loved: A Concert,” will be held at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre on Sunday, October 14th. Featuring music by Manos Hatzidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, and Stavros Xarhakos, with lyrics by Gatsos, the program will focus on the poet’s enduring legacy to Greek and world culture. Tickets will be available closer to the date through the Harvard Box Office.

Panagiotis Roilos, George Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard, strongly encouraged the Library to acquire the archive. “Nikos Gatsos was one of the most prominent figures of the European avant-garde. His long poem Amorgos, which was published in 1943, during the occupation of Greece by the Germans and their allies, was almost instantly hailed by both critics and poets as an emblematic work of Greek surrealism.” Roilos continued, “The Gatsos archive will be a major addition to Harvard’s archives on European modernism and of course to its unique collection on Greek literature and culture. I cannot stress enough the potential educational and research value of the archive for several scholarly areas, including Greek and broader European cultural history, comparative literature, Greek world literature and translation studies.”

“for Niko, Seferis, 31.5.66”

Inscribed copy of Nobel laureate George Seferis’s “Song of songs” “for Niko, Seferis, 31.5.66”

Gatsos was greatly admired for his command of the Greek language. His close friend, the poet Peter Levi recalled: “Seferis used to say that Gatsos was the only man whose Greek he truly envied.” Nikos Gatsos heard music in the words he carefully chose for his poems. In 1943, a young Manos Hadzidakis presented Gatsos with a musical setting for the poem “Amorgos,” beginning a lifelong friendship and fruitful collaboration between the poet and composer. Gatsos also spent much creative energy working with other Greek composers, such as Mikis Theodorakis and Stavros Xaharkos, transforming his poems into songs forever etched in the musical psyche of the Greek nation. His oeuvre includes a total of three hundred and sixty songs—a newly revised edition of his songs edited by his partner Agathi Dimitrouka has just been released.

“This collection will be a tremendous resource not only for philologists and historians, but for musicians and musicologists as well,” says Dr. Panayotis League, a recent graduate of Harvard’s PhD program in Ethnomusicology and a current fellow at the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature. “Gatsos was one of the most important Greek lyricists and songwriters of the twentieth century, and his collaborations with the greatest Greek composers of the twentieth century helped define the course of Greek popular music in its marriage of the folkloric to the avant-garde. The opportunity to examine not only Gatsos’s notes and papers but also audio recordings of song sketches and unfinished compositions will certainly prove invaluable to future musicological scholarship and help us better understand the work of this pioneering songwriter.”

A “Special Delivery” musical recording from composer Manos Hadzidakis.

A “Special Delivery” musical recording from composer Manos Hadzidakis.

Gatsos was also a gifted translator, mostly of theatrical works. He introduced the work of Federico García Lorca, Archibald MacLeish, Eugene O’Neill, and August Strindberg to Greek audiences. Gatsos’s poems and lyrics have been translated into English, French, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Korean, Swedish, Turkish, and Finnish. In 1987, he was awarded the Athens City Prize for his life achievements and in 1991 he was recognized as Deputy Member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona for his contribution to the promotion of Spanish literature in Greece.

The first draft of “Amorgos” which was written on the verso of an incomplete short story “Lake Kaliamba.”

The Gatsos archive includes a rich collection of manuscripts, typescripts, notebooks, correspondence, books, photographs, and musical recordings. Users will find:
• eighteen letters from Odysseas Elytis (ranging from three to twenty-five pages)
• fifty years of postcards from his good friend and popular singer Nana Mouskouri
• record albums signed by composers
• cassette tapes labeled “songs in progress”
• the script of Elia Kazan’s America (with annotations by Kazan)
• annotated typescripts by George Seferis, Archibald MacLeish, Desmond O’Grady, and Charles Haldeman

The archive will be available for research at Houghton Library once preliminary processing is completed.

Rhea Lesage, Librarian for Hellenic Studies, Coordinator for the Classics and Center for Hellenic Studies Associate for Collaborative Initiatives at Widener Library and Leslie Morris, Gore Vidal Curator of Modern Books & Manuscripts at Houghton Library joined forces to make this acquisition possible. “Bringing the Nikos Gatsos archive to Houghton Library, Harvard’s primary repository for rare books and manuscripts, will ensure that his life’s work will be preserved for future generations to research,” said Lesage. “Plans are already underway to promote and celebrate this important archive that will be accessible to scholars everywhere once preliminary processing is complete.”

Gatsos on right with his "brother" in poetry, Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis (ca.1963)

Gatsos on right with his “brother” in poetry, Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis (ca.1963)

Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, who is the Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C., highlighted the importance of the Gatsos acquisition in promoting the cause of Hellenism. “The work of Nikos Gatsos touches upon the humanities writ large, from literature to social commentary, from history to philosophy. I congratulate Harvard Library for taking this important initiative. The Center for Hellenic Studies stands ready to support the Library’s future initiatives in sustaining the legacy of Gatsos.”

Image 2: Inscribed copy of Nobel laureate George Seferis’s “Song of songs” “for Niko, Seferis, 31.5.66”
Image 3: “for Niko, Seferis, 31.5.66”
Image 5: The first draft of “Amorgos” which was written on the verso of an incomplete short story “Lake Kaliamba.

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library


Size matters! was the motto that Wilhelm Moser and David Culby took quite seriously when creating The Manipulator in Dusseldorf in the 1980s.  This art magazine is an impressive 70 cm long by 50 cm wide and marks the heyday of the photographic press before digital images and Photoshop.  It became a trailblazer for other extra-large photographic publications.  The Manipulator would take images and blow them up to extremely large sizes, in either black and white or color, and combine them with text focusing on film, fashion, art and design, architecture and often ethical and historical subjects.  This type of independent publishing carried on the tradition of Andy Warhol’s Interview from the 1970s which focused on celebrity and popular culture.

This particular issue featuring our friend the dog is no.19 and displays the variety of content one would find within the magazine.  You can see the larger than life advertising with this Moschino ad which was part of a campaign that Moschino, a high-end fashion house, ran mocking the elite snobbery or “fashion system.”  fullsizerender-4Franco Moschino was a designer that liked to challenge the fashion world and believed that it was a creative outlet meant to be fun and playful.  This type of advertising as art was a very new concept at the time.


Then you turn the page and are faced with these amazing reproductions from the French newspaper Le Petit Journal.  Both images have been blow up to the fill the full 70 x 50 cm pages.  And both people are being spectacularly attacked by tigers and an octopus respectively.  I’d say humans 0, animal kindgom 2.


They published a total of 29 issues and the covers can be seen as a kind of graphic anthology of the 1980s and have become somewhat of a collector’s item.  This is the only issue we found in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo collection and Harvard has no other holdings or issues of the Manipulator.

The Manipulator. [Düsseldorf] ;[New York, N.Y.] / Wilhelm Moser and David Culby can be found in the Fine Arts Library collection.

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

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library


Pulps are so called because of the low quality of paper, coarse untreated paper produced from wood pulp, on which they were printed. Because the quality of paper was so poor it meant that it was cheap thus keeping production costs low and the subsequent cost for the reader low as well.  Also because it was already so cheap they didn’t need advertisers within the early magazines.  Pulp magazines typically published escapist fiction for the popular entertainment of a mass audience and it was an incredibly successful model.  By 1915 it is estimated that a combination of eight of these magazines had a readership of 15% of the U.S. population.  These pulp novels featured cover art that revels in exploitation fantasies and lurid depictions of women, teenagers, sex, and drugs.  Teen-rebel dope fiends is book of postcards featuring some of the most daring covers which were immediately familiar to me because we have the original pulps in the collection.

img0018 For instance we have this paperback edition of Claude Farrere’s Black Opium, originally Fumée d’opium, translated from the French by Samuel Putnam at Houghton.  You can see that the cover blurb appears to feign disgust about the use of opium calling it “…shocking ecstasy of the forbidden”, but the illustration of the woman coming out of the opium pipe is clearly celebrating a sensationalist attitude designed to titillate the readers.  img0020I also noticed the postcard cover of Junkie by William Lee, a pseudonym for William S. Burroughs.  This was the first published novel by Burroughs, it was semi-autobiographical and dealt with his experiences with heroin.  It was bound back-to-back with Narcotic Agent an abridgement of the memoirs of FBI agent Maurice Helbrant in an attempt to balance out unapologetic stories of drug use.  So two books for the low price of 35 cents.  The publisher A. A. Wyn also insisted that Burroughs add a preface explaining how someone like Burroughs, a Harvard graduate from a prominent family, was a drug addict.  

The illustration on the cover of Junkie is again typical of these pulps.  We see an attractive blond woman in a scarlet skirt being forced to release her desperate grip on a syringe with other drug implements strewn across a table.  Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict practically screams at the reader about the depravity of drugs and the unsavory consequences that can be found within its pages.  Junkie is particularly interesting because of its cover art evolution as Burroughs became a respected writer.  It transforms from a “cheap shocker” to a respected cult novel by the 50th Anniversary publication.

junkie_william_s-_burroughs_novel_-_2003_coverPulps have often been deemed unworthy of study because they epitomize mainstream culture of the 20th-century and until recently not many have been interested in this area of research, particularly academia.  I would argue that the look at popular culture is exactly what makes pulps so fascinating to us today and more and more researchers are interested in studying them.  However pulps can be challenging to collect because they are so ephemeral and people just read them and never thought about saving them.  Also there are preservation challenges because of the cheap paper so they are brittle making handling of them difficult.  Luckily for us some collectors saw the value in keeping these types of novels and in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo collection there are an abundance of these pulp novels, many of whose covers are featured in this delightful volume of postcards.

To get a glimpse of more pulp covers you can find Teen-rebel dope fiends : pulp postcardsLondon : Prion, 2000 in Widener’s collection. 

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

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library 


Or you may be more familiar with the word muzzle.

Les muselières pour femmes et autres supplices (Muzzles for women and other punishments) authored by Jean Finot was most likely published in the early 20th-century in France.  The earliest known use of a scold’s bridle was in Scotland in the 16th-century to punish and humiliate women who were scolds or nags.  It was usually an iron muzzle within an iron framework that would go around the head along with a bridle-bit that would go in the mouth and press down on the tongue- thus effectively silencing the offender.

img0015The part inside the mouth would sometimes be spiked or have a sharp edge so that if the woman moved her mouth at all she could injure her tongue or mouth.  Then the offending “scold” could be led around town in this contraption to further humiliate them and have them repent their mouthy ways.  I was amazed at the range and variety of the muzzles that were represented in this volume.

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Though the volume indicates that this was just a punishment for women the Burgh Records of Scotland’s major towns reveal that the branks were at times used on men as well:

“Patrick Pratt sall sit … bound to the croce of this burgh, in the brankis lockit” (1591 Aberd. B Rec. II. 71) / “He shall be put in the branks be the space of xxiiij houres thairafter” (1559 (c 1650) Dundee B. Laws 19. )

Les muselières pour femmes et autres supplices / Jean Finot. Paris : Eugène Figuière & Cie, [1920?] can be found in Widener’s collection.


Thanks to Anthony Terrizzi, Cataloger and Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager for contributing this post. 

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library


If you are looking for some practical advice on how to grow cannabis under fluorescent lighting I’ve got just the book for you!  A guide to growing Cannabis under fluorescents by C.E. Faber was published in 1974.  Tips on soil, lighting, containers, pruning, and the best types of seeds are only a few of the chapters in this book.  


The section that I found most fascinating dealt with the problem of insects when you are growing pot.  The author points out that you are at an advantage growing inside because you are not dealing with the typical problems in a field like grasshoppers, slugs, or snails which could “meance your plants.”

What you do need to worry about are things like aphids.  img0003Typically they attack the tender growth tips and buds and can injure plants by sucking the juices from both the stems and leaves of the plant as well as excreting honeydew which serves as a culture for black mold.  Unchecked they will spread over the entire plant then move onto others.  Aphids are only about one thirty-second of an inch long and are prodigious at producing offspring.  Faber counsels that there are really only two choices, one involves going organic and using their natural enemies either the ladybug or the praying mantis and the second involves spraying with insecticide.

Another pot foe is the two spotted spider-mite.   They feed off the plant in the same manner as the aphid causing the leaves to turn a stippled grey-yellow, then brown only to fall off the plant.  img0006They can vary in color and are so tiny it takes a magnifying glass to see them clearly.  Often you can only spot them by looking at the underside of the leaves where small dots of silver indicate the webs to which eggs are attached.  They multiply quickly and your only option is spraying with insecticide again and again.

Location is as you might imagine is extremely important.  The plants need fresh air for the carbon dioxide, so if you are going to put them in a closet be sure to open it for air circulation every day.  If you are committed to growing pot in your house you also need to think about your pets.  Cats in particular love to nibble on vegetation and if you aren’t careful you may come home to a plant that has served as a tasty snack.

I’ll leave you with some of Faber’s advice…“One more thing.  Plants do prefer classical music to rock; violins to electric guitars, Stravinski to the Stones, so if you have a predilection for rock it would be best for your plants to have them in a separate room from your stereo.”  A guide to growing Cannabis under fluorescents / by C.E. Faber ; ill. by A. Faber. Philadelphia : Flash Post Express, 1974 can be found in Widener’s collection.  


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

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library

img0029Will you live in a mansion, drive a Ferrari, get your dream job, have two kids and marry your hot 12-year old crush?  Or will your fate be to have a rusty pickup truck, work a minimum wage job, have 13 kids to feed, and live in a shack?  Cootie catchers helped us answer these difficult questions in our struggle to discover our futures!  Originally called the salt cellar it was first seen in an origami book called Fun with Paper Folding in 1928.  Apparently the cootie catcher name caught on because of the pincer like movement the folded paper makes, which can mimic catching insects, like lice.  I discovered this cootie catcher, or fortune suggester if you prefer, in an issue of X-ray magazine.  It is meant to be removed from the plastic to reveal your future!  Published by Pneumatic Press in California this limited

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edition publication only produced 226 copies per issue and is actually a kind of collaborative artist book full of highly ephemeral objects, art pieces, textiles, poems, photographs, prints, and other types of materials.  Materials are tucked between pages, affixed with stickers and glue, or found inside envelopes.  The user is meant to interact with the items and every page is supposed to surprise.  I was certainly surprised when I found the page by Mike Dyar that supposedly contains his hair.  If indeed it IS his real hair did he donate it to every copy?


Another particularly delightful page was the fortune cookie.  It is designed with a cut in the page so that you can literally pull the fortune from the drawing of the cookie.  This fortune said “When you’re through changing- you’re through!”

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These fascinating issues of X-ray magazine can be found in the collection of the Fine Arts Library.

Thanks to Donna Viscuglia, Cataloger and Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, for contributing this post.


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

Originally a French lawyer, Georges Anquetil was also a journalist and publisher who was well known for unorthodox methods and anarchist leanings.  Early in his legal career he wrote under the name “Georges Evil.”  His career in journalism began at the French Mail around 1914 after he was disbarred.  After that he tried to launch various newspapers over the years mostly focusing on political satire though he was not very successful except for Le Grand Guignol, which ran for about eight years.  We have an issue from 1925 in the collection where the cover appears to give their opinion of where various types of Evian water originate.  Any type of scandal, especially img0037political, was Anquetil’s bread and butter for Le Grand Guignol.

This appetite for scandal was also true for most of Anquetil’s self publishing endeavors.  One that we discovered in the collection is La maitresse légitime : essai sur le mariage polygamique de demain.  It loosely translates to Legitimate Mistress : Essay on polygamous marriage tomorrow which was essentially an attack on monogamy.  It was hugely controversial and consequently sold a lot of copies.

Georges-Anquetil "La Maitresse Self - Test on polygamous marriage tomorrow" (Editions Georges-Anquetil - 1922) img0036

Another scandalous book deeply rooted in satire was Satan conduit le bal : roman pamphlétaire et philosophique des moeurs du temps which reads as Satan leads the ball.  It is set in France during the early 20th-century during the government of Poincare where Anquetil’s criticism spares no from socialist to nationalist.  He associates the names of prominent French figures with extreme scenes of debauchery in order to indicate that France was being led to ruin by those that governed it.  Georges Clemenceau, an early French prime minister is described as a “whoremonger” who brought victory in WWI and prostitution.  Antonin Dubost, president of the Senate, is found dead in a notorious brothel in which he was a regular customer, supposedly poisoned by police.  All three of these publications can be found in Widener’s collection.

Le grand guignol. Paris : Hachette. 

La maitresse légitime : essai sur le mariage polygamique de demainGeorges-Anquetil ; préface de Victor Margueritte. Paris : Les Editions Georges-Anquetil, 1926. 

Satan conduit le bal : roman pamphlétaire et philosophique des moeurs du temps / Georges Anquetil. Paris : Les Editions Georges-Anquetil, 1925.

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

Artistry of Linocuts

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


This lovely artist book Geheimzinnige Personen : omtrent de flarden des levenswas was created by a Dutch artist, Margit Willems.  It loosely translates to Mysterious Persons: on the scraps of life and features 23 linocuts with text on separate pages.  You might be asking yourself what exactly is a linocut?  It is a printmaking technique that takes a linoleum sheet, often mounted on a wooden block, which is then used as a relief surface.  The artist uses tools to cut into the surface of the linoleum so that the uncarved areas will reveal a mirror image of the parts to show when printed.  Essentially the cut away areas will be white and the remaining area will be black on the linocut.


One of the earlier strong innovators in printmaking (including linocuts), book design, typography and illustration was Czech émigré Vojtěch Preissig.  Preissig came to America around 1910 where he taught at Colombia University and then the School of Printing and Graphic Arts at the Wentworth Institute here in Boston.  While he was at Wentworth Preissig designed recruitment posters for the United States during WWI that were aimed at Czech immigrants.

800px-find_the_range_of_your_patriotism2 manifesto_to_czechoslovakian_people_in_america_-_chicago_february_11_1918

Most of Willem’s linocuts do not use a great deal of color in this book, but when it is used it has a strong impact.  Her linocut that depicts an elderly woman who was robbed in Tubbergen (thus giving up her pincode) is an example of that.  You can see that she created the linocut as well as the typeset letters in black ink. Then she reused the typeset numbers inverted them and printed them with red ink.  It creates a striking image and also displays the skill of the artist in creating the image through several different (often laborious) steps.


Geheimzinnige Personen : omtrent de flarden des levens can be found in collection of the Fine Arts Library.

Thanks to Donna Viscuglia, Cataloger and Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, for contributing this post.

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