Houghton Library

Houghton Library Past Exhibitions

Silhouettes: From Craft to Art
July 14 – September 30, 2014
This exhibition explores the production of hand-cut and printed silhouettes in books and manuscript albums from the late 1700s to the present, both as craft and as art forms in Europe and the United States. The 'craze' for silhouettes popularized this figurative genre among a wide audience at the end of the eighteenth-century. Amateurs and professionals alike made silhouettes for private use or widespread circulation. During the nineteenth century, the visual vocabulary of these figures expanded. While remaining a popular art, silhouette-making attracted the interest of artists. The exhibit includes well-known books about or including silhouettes such as those of Johann Caspar Lavater and Kara Walker, as well as lesser known items representative of the subject.

Medieval Scrolls at Harvard
May 5 - August 16, 2014
An exhibition of medieval scrolls from Harvard collections, ranging from illuminated luxury chronicles to workaday records, the scrolls illustrate the various ways in which an archaic format continued to be used long into the age of the codex. The exhibition is curated by the sixteen students in Medieval Studies 240/Harvard Divinity School 2228: The Rotulus in the Middle Ages and by Professors Thomas Forrest Kelly and Beverly Mayne Kienzle together with Timothy M. Baker, Harvard Divinity School, and William P. Stoneman, Curator of Early Books & Manuscripts, Houghton Library.

Bridging More Gaps in Houghton Library Collections: A selection of new acquisitions funded by David A. Goldberg, Harvard College Class of 1954.
May 23 - June 30, 2014
David A. Goldberg's continuing support of Houghton Library and its collections has become the stuff of legend. Mr. Goldberg is a member of the Harvard College Class of 1954 and of the Harvard Law School Class of 1957. In 1981 David presented funds to support Houghton Library and requested that these funds should not be used to establish an endowment or added to principal, but be spent out for any worthy purpose. Since then his annual gifts have been used to acquire books and manuscripts that bridge gaps in the Library's collections. He began working with Roger Stoddard, now retired Senior Curator of Houghton Library; for over twenty years he would receive Roger's annual acquisition letters describing purchases on the Goldberg fund. Forty-five significant books and manuscripts were acquired during Roger's curatorial tenure. As Houghton Librarian and Curator of Early Printed Books and Manuscripts, I have benefited from David's insightful questions and keen interest in "his" acquisitions in the years following Roger's retirement, and the library has continued to be enriched by his generosity.

By happy coincidence we have acquired sixty books and manuscripts to celebrate David's sixty years as a Harvard alumnus, surely a record of engaged and thoughtful giving. This keepsake records the forty-sixth through the sixtieth items acquired on the fund that bears his name, ranging from an annotated sixteenth century Sammelband of neo-Latin poetry to a colorful collection of panels displayed in Newark's Shubert Theatre during the Roaring Twenties. David's sixtieth reunion provides a fitting occasion to exhibit what has been acquired with his support over the last decade, all deeply appreciated by the students, faculty and scholars who use the Library for teaching and research.

John Updike: The Harvard Years, 1950-1954
May 27 - May 31, 2014
John Updike was in many ways an ideal Harvard student. He worked diligently at his studies, as evidenced by the marginalia recorded in the books he used in class (he graduated summa cum laude in 1954); he was an active member of the Harvard Lampoon, and served as president (nearly two-thirds of each issue during his senior year are attributed to him); he also remained a loving son, regularly writing amusing letters home to his parents in Shillington, Pennsylvania. Although Updike originally envisioned a career as an artist, there is evidence of the emerging professional writer; as a student, Updike received high marks on work that he would later submit to the New Yorker and other publications.

Updike began depositing his papers at Houghton Library in 1966; the collection was purchased by the library following his death in 2009. Updike meticulously shepherded his work through every stage of its publication, and the collection includes multiple drafts, prints and proofs of his novels, short stories, poems and essays, correspondence with colleagues, family, and friends, Updikes own copies of his books as well as books by other authors from his library.

Edward Hoagland '54: Celebrating the 60th reunion
May 27 - May 31, 2014
Edward Hoagland started his writing career as a novelist, working on Cat Man deep in C-level of Widener Library while a Harvard student. Selected as a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award winner, the novel was published shortly after graduation. While his fiction received much critical praise, he found his true métier in non-fiction, and today is best known as a nature and travel writer. He has published 24 books; 12 short stories; and more than 180 essays. His classmate and friend John Updike called him "the best essayist of my generation;" Philip Roth, "America's most intelligent and wide-ranging essayist-naturalist;" and Joyce Carol Oates, "Our Chopin of the genre."

Hoagland’s papers were a gift to Harvard in May 2014 as his contribution to the Class of 1954 Reunion Gift. The exhibition features a small selection from his extensive archive, and includes material for his first novel, Cat Man; and his first collection of essays, The Courage of Turtles.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Two Exhibitions at Harvard Celebrating the Tercentenary of the Composer's Birth
January 13, 2013 - April 5, 2014
C.P.E. Bach, the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach, became one of the most prolific and influential composers of the eighteenth century. His oeuvre encompassed virtually every musical genre of the time, except opera, and he wrote one of the most important and enduring music treatises on keyboard instruments. During his lifetime, he enjoyed a high reputation, and his music was widely distributed in print and in manuscript.

Drawing on a wealth of materials at Harvard, with a selection of important items generously lent by other institutions and individuals, Houghton Library and the Loeb Music Library are mounting complementary exhibitions to celebrate the 300th birthday of C.P.E. Bach. The Loeb Library exhibition focuses on the editorial challenges and current editorial practice behind the ongoing publication of Bach's complete works. The Packard Humanities Institute—in cooperation with the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, the Sächsische Akademie zu Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, and Harvard University—is producing a critical edition, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works, projected to run to 115 volumes, with more than half that number now in print.

The Houghton exhibition explores Bach's intellectual and musical background by documenting the Bach family heritage, his service in the court of Frederick the Great, his interactions with authors, his important keyboard treatise, his reputation in his lifetime, his standing with his contemporaries, his later career in Hamburg, and his musical legacy.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788):
The Intellectual and Musical Life and Legacy of an Original Genius

Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library

Editing C.P.E. Bach's Complete Works
Richard F. French Gallery, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library

Charting the River of Doubt: The Roosevelt-Rondon South American Expedition, 1913-1914
February 1, 2013 - January 2014
In the winter of 1913-1914, following a lecture tour through South America, former president Theodore Roosevelt and a group of American and Brazilian naturalists, explorers, and hardy rivermen, set off into the jungle to survey the River of Doubt, a tributary of the Amazon discovered only a few years earlier. Fraught with danger, from malaria-carrying mosquitos to carnivorous piranhas to raging rapids to dysentery and starvation, the expedition nearly cost Roosevelt his life. This exhibition features photographs taken by members of the expedition, recorded for Roosevelt’s countrymen for whom the Amazon was still uncharted and unknown.

Building on Strengths, Broadening Horizons: Recent Additions to the Collections of Houghton Library, II
September 10 - December 13, 2013
Over the last five years curators at Houghton Library have continued to acquire material in support of the teaching and scholarship which are at the core of the Library ’s mission; they have very broad and deep collections on which to build. Items in this exhibition ranges from an 8th-century fragment of Theodore of Mopsuestia’s commentary of the Pauline epistles to a placard from the August 1963 March on Washington whose 50th anniversary was commemorated last month; from an early 15th-century woodcut still mounted inside its original leather box to playing cards which reflect the phenomenal box office success of Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourth comic opera, H.M.S. Pinafore, which opened in 1878; from the manuscript of Gilbert White’s sermons written between 1747 and 1753 and a record of the dates each was delivered to John Updike’s typescript with autograph revisions for his review of Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night (1968). As Houghton Library approaches its 75th anniversary in 2017 its collections continue to flourish under careful stewardship which builds on past strengths and broadens future horizons.

Private Proust: Letters and Drawings to Reynaldo Hahn
February 4 - June 1, 2013
Letters and Drawings to Reynaldo Hahn
Marcel Proust's letters to the composer Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) are unlike any others in the writer's vast correspondence. Often accompanied by witty, irreverent drawings that Proust produced for no one else, the letters combine text and image in illuminating their close relationship. Proust also confided to Hahn his ambitions and difficulties in writing the novel that would become In Search of Lost Time.

This exhibition, curated by François Proulx, Lecturer on Comparative Literature at Harvard University, includes a generous selection of these illustrated letters, along with first editions and corrected proofs. It is held in conjunction with "Proust and the Arts," an interdisciplinary conference to mark the centenary of Swann's Way, to be held at Harvard University, April 19 - 20, 2013. For more information about the conference, see Proust and the Arts.

Boston’s Crusade Against Slavery
May 1 – August 23, 2013
During the Civil War era Boston led the national crusade against slavery and the struggle over emancipation and citizenship. Owing largely to activists in Boston, Massachusetts became one of the first states to end slavery. It soon granted black men full suffrage, ended the ban on interracial marriage, and in 1855 became the first state legally to desegregate public schools. During the Civil War, Bostonians were instrumental in convincing the Lincoln administration to turn a conflict fought chiefly to preserve the Union into a war for emancipation and black citizenship.

Boston’s Crusade Against Slavery features objects from the extraordinary collection at Houghton Library to highlight the city’s role in the international fight for freedom. Each case focuses on a theme connecting Boston to the larger crusade against slavery: Haiti and Toussaint Louverture; An Age of Compromise and Crisis; Militant Abolitionists in Boston; Music as Memory; Female Emancipators; Emerson’s Response to Abolition and John Brown; the Saturday Club; and an introductory case spotlights Boston’s abolitionist leaders. Each object constitutes an important marker in the crusade. Many are on display for the first time, and have rarely, if ever, been analyzed by scholars.

The exhibition has been mounted in conjunction with the public symposium, Freedom Rising, a three-day event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and African American military service.

Private Proust: Letters and Drawings to Reynaldo Hahn
February 4 - April 28, 2013
Marcel Proust's letters to the composer Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) are unlike any others in the writer's vast correspondence. Often accompanied by witty, irreverent drawings that Proust produced for no one else, the letters combine text and image in illuminating their close relationship. Proust also confided to Hahn his ambitions and difficulties in writing the novel that would become In Search of Lost Time.

This exhibition, curated by François Proulx, Lecturer on Comparative Literature at Harvard University, includes a generous selection of these illustrated letters, along with first editions and corrected proofs. It is held in conjunction with "Proust and the Arts," an interdisciplinary conference to mark the centenary of Swann's Way, to be held at Harvard University, April 19 - 20, 2013. For more information about the conference, see Proust and the Arts.

Harvard University Press: 100 Years of Excellence in Publishing
January 28, - April 20, 2013
Celebrating the centennial of one of the premier university presses, Harvard University Press: 100 Years of Excellence in Publishing offers a history of the Press, viewed through its distinguished publications. From classic texts such as The Great Chain of Being; to series such as the Loeb Classical Library and the Norton Lectures; to Pulitzer Prize-winners and New York Times bestsellers; to new digital publications; this exhibition highlights the Press's important role in the creation and dissemination of scholarship and learning.

Groundbreaking and enduring publications from the Harvard University Press list are enlivened by photographs and letters from its archive, illuminating both authors' and editors' preoccupations. The books and documents on display represent a modest number of the important titles edited, designed, and marketed by Harvard University Press since its founding in 1913, many of which are still part of academic conversations today.

From Austen to Zola: Amy Lowell as a Collector
September 4, 2012 - January 12, 2013
Amy Lowell—a controversial, cigar-smoking, outspoken, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet—collected works by prominent creative artists such as Jane Austen, Ludwig von Beethoven, William Blake, Charlotte Brontë, John Keats, Michaelangelo, Walt Whitman and Émile Zola. A selection from the thousands of rare books and manuscripts collected by Lowell, and bequeathed to Harvard in 1925, are showcased in this exhibition.

Lowell was one of the few women competing in the male-dominated world of collecting. She began at age 17 by purchasing Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly novels with her Christmas money. The exhibition includes several works by William Blake, another of her early collecting interests, including Songs of Innocence (1789); a sketch by Michelangelo on the back of a work order (1523); letters by Voltaire, Jane Austen, and Harriet Beecher Stowe; love letters from Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton, and John Keats to Fanny Brawne; manuscripts by Ben Jonson, Jean La Fontaine, Charlotte Brontë, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson; books owned by Charles I and the Empress Josephine; and much, much more.

These often-astonishing individual books and manuscripts, and the tale of how Lowell found and acquired them, and why, tell a fascinating story of the world of collecting at the turn of the twentieth century, illuminating how collections are formed, and how such a gift can impact an institution’s collecting.

The Natural History of Edward Lear
April 2 - August 18, 2012
Although he is best remembered today as a whimsical nonsense poet, adventurous traveler, and painter of luminous landscapes, Edward Lear is revered in scientific circles as one of the greatest natural history painters of all time. During his brief immersion in the world of science, he created a body of work that continues to inform, delight, and astonish us with its remarkable blend of scientific rigor and artistic finesse.

Thanks to the generosity of two discerning Harvard University benefactors, Philip Hofer and William B. Osgood Field, Houghton Library holds the largest and most complete collection of Edward Lear’s original paintings in the world. Among the thousands of items in this collection are some two hundred sketches, studies, and finished paintings devoted to natural history. This exhibition, commemorating the bicentennial of Lear’s birth, is the first devoted to this important aspect of his career.

Guest curator for the exhibition is Robert McCracken Peck, Senior Fellow at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (Drexel University).

John Updike: A Glimpse from the Archive
June 4 - June 30, 2012
The career of John Updike (1932-2009), Harvard ’54, is well known: more than 50 books of fiction, poetry, short stories, and criticism; two Pulitzer Prizes; four National Book Awards; and a host of other honors. He is, indisputably, one of America’s pre-eminent men of letters.

The John Updike Archive, a vast collection of manuscripts, correspondence, books, photographs, artwork and other papers, was acquired by Houghton Library in September 2009. This exhibition, marking the occasion of the Second Biennial John Updike Society Conference in Boston this June, offers a glimpse of the range of material that will soon be available for research use. The exhibition includes letters to Updike from Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, and others; portions of the manuscripts, and research materials, for Rabbit at Rest; and drawings and letters done during Updike’s student days at Harvard.

Lyonel Feininger's Early Photographs
March 12 - June 2, 2012
Already a highly-respected Expressionist painter, Bauhaus master Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) acquired a Voigtländer Bergheil camera in 1928, and found the new medium inspired and enhanced his paintings. Coinciding with the exhibition "Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928-1939," on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, this exhibition offers a selection of Feininger's early photographs, an album depicting the Feininger family's favorite hobbies, and two of Feininger's letters to his wife Julia.

Louisa May Alcott: Family Life & Publishing Ventures
April 2 - May 26, 2012
In May 1868, when beginning Little Women, Louisa May Alcott wrote, “Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters, but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt.” Surrounded by her parents and three sisters, Louisa May lived in a remarkable family, evidence of which lies in the voluminous letters and journals they left behind. This exhibition displays material relating to the Alcott family and the publication of Little Women.

Rousseau and Human Rights
January 16 - March 23, 2012
This year marks the 300th birthday of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose writings have profoundly affected the development of modern political and social thought. Focusing on human rights, this exhibition includes both his political writings and his equally influential novel, Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse. Curated by Tali Zechory, graduate student in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, it is offered in conjunction with French 242, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, taught by Christie McDonald with Stanley Hoffmann.

Cabinets of Curiosity and Rooms of Wonder
October 27, 2011 - March 17, 2012
Modern museums and art galleries have their origins in late Renaissance European private collections of artifacts gathered for study and admiration. This exhibition documents this fascinating intersection of science and art, and explores the shift from private repositories to public institutions. The exhibition, curated by Florence Fearrington, HRPBA ’61, draws on her private collection as well as material from Harvard’s Houghton Library, Ernst Mayr Library of Comparative Zoology, Botany Library and Countway Library of Medicine.

Wusku Wuttestamentum Nul-Lordumun Jesus Christ nuppoquohwussuaeneumun:
The 350th Anniversary of America's First Bible

August - October 2011
In 1661, the translation and printing of North America’s first Bible began at Harvard College with the publication of the New Testament, entitled in Algonquian Wusku Wuttestamentum Nul-Lordumun Jesus Christ nuppoquohwussuaeneumun: The Commissioners of the United Colonies in New England ordered the printing, “at the charge and with the consent of the Corporation in England for the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New-England.” The translation of the Bible was overseen by Puritan missionary John Eliot who worked with Native American interpreters Job Nesutan and Cockenoe. Apprentice James Printer, a Nipmuc Indian also known as Wowaus, worked with fellow printers Samuel Greene and Marmaduke Johnson to set and print the type for the New Testament. At the time of the Bible’s printing, the press was housed at the Indian College, one of the first four buildings at Harvard, in which Native American and English students resided. Printing type used at the press has been recovered by archaeological investigations at the site of Harvard’s earliest buildings, including during recent seasons of the Harvard Yard Archaeology Project, which is occurring again in Fall 2011.

To commemorate the printing of the New Testament  in Algonquian, an event that took place only 25 years after the founding of Harvard College, the exhibition brings together artifacts from two Harvard collections. From Houghton Library, copies of the 1661 New Testament and the complete Bible of 1663, as well as John Eliot’s Indian Grammar (1666) will be on display, accompanied by some of the original printing types from the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

Rilke's Changing Aesthetic:
Books and Manuscripts from the Mises Collection

September - October 2011
At the time of his death in 1953, Richard von Mises owned the most substantial collection of manuscripts, books, and related materials by Rainer Maria Rilke that then existed. Using some of the gems of the Mises collection, this exhibition traces Rilke’s aesthetic development from his early years to his more mature work.

Organized in conjunction with the Rilkes 'Verstreute Gedichte' conference of the International Rilke Society, the exhibition focuses on a selection of items from the Mises collection that lead up to, coincide with, and immediately follow the period 1906-1911, a critical phase in Rilke’s poetic production. A key emphasis is on Rilke’s active participation in the design of his books.

The Adventures of Thackeray In His Way Through the World:
His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Family

July - October 2011
This exhibition seeks to re-introduce readers to a man who was once one of the most celebrated British writers. Now largely forgotten, Thackeray’s name may be recognized only for his most major novel, Vanity Fair. Thackeray’s output, encompassing numerous novels and shorter works of fiction, scores of essays, articles, drawings, and other work, is much wider than Vanity Fair. In honor of the bicentenary of Thackeray’s birth, this exhibition displays material from the Houghton’s Library vast collection of Thackeray’s books, manuscripts, correspondence, drawings, and other material. Together with items lent from private collections, they provide insight into Thackeray the devoted son, affectionate father, and loyal friend, in addition to the literary celebrity.

See the online exhibition, The Adventures of Thackeray In His Way Through the World: His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Family.

Peace if possible, or justice at any rate:
Wendell Phillips at 200

June - August 2011
This bicentennial exhibition documents Phillips’s long career as one of this country’s foremost champions of civil rights, featuring materials chiefly from the Crawford Blagden Collection of the Papers of Wendell Phillips. Letters from notable contemporaries such as William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Charles Sumner, and Harriet Tubman are on view. The exhibition has been mounted in cooperation with the Wendell Phillips Bicentennial Commemoration, Social Justice, Then & Now, to be held at venues in Cambridge and Boston, June 2-4, 2011.

The Bible in Type
From Gutenberg to Rogers: An Exhibition Commemorating the Four-Hundredth
Anniversary of the King James Bible

January - June 2011
The history of the Bible in print goes back to the invention of printing from moveable type in the mid-fifteenth century, when the Gutenberg Bible was the first substantial book produced using the new technique. Since then the Bible has been printed repeatedly, in editions of various formats intended for reading in churches, for learned study, or for private meditation. Translations, such as Martin Luther’s German text, or the Authorized Version in England, commonly known as the King James Bible, not only reflected religious belief, but also exercised lasting linguistic and stylistic influence on the development of their respective languages. Throughout the history of printing, the ability to create a typeface and layout suitable for presenting the Biblical text has been regarded as the greatest test of talent and the ultimate proof of achievement for the typographer or book designer. Commemorating the four-hundredth anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible (London, 1611), this exhibition presents a small number of Bibles renowned for their typography or design.

Ex libris: Charles Sumner
April - May 2011
In his diary for April 28, 1874, Harvard librarian and biographer J. L. Sibley announced the arrival of one of largest College Library benefactions received to that time: "Thirty-three boxes, Sumner's bequest, brought to the Library." The bequest included some 3,750 books, important early manuscripts, autographs, and a fund to benefit the library; years later his executor donated Sumner's own voluminous correspondence and papers, which document his career as a United States senator, prominent abolitionist, and man of letters. To honor Sumner in his bicentennial year, Houghton Library presents a selection of notable items drawn from his bequest, including school books from his days at Boston Public Latin School and Harvard; an important manuscript of the philosopher Edmund Burke; and several important presentation and association copies, such as American Notes for General Circulation (1842) inscribed by Charles Dickens to Sumner and a book from Napoleon's library.

The Legacies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord
December 2010 - March 2011
Milman Parry, a professor at Harvard University from 1929 until his death in 1935, journeyed to the Balkans in 1933 at the start of an ambitious project to collect the corpus of epic songs from a living oral tradition. His student Albert Lord, himself a Harvard faculty member from 1950 until his retirement in 1983, returned to the Balkans several times to continue Parry's work. Between them, they formed the largest collection of South Slavic epic song in the world and developed an astonishing theory about the composition of oral songs, now called the Oral-Formulaic Theory, which had and continues to have enormous effects on all scholarship concerning oral literature. Houghton Library's exhibition presents material chiefly drawn from the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature relating to these two scholars and their monumental work on the fiftieth anniversary of Lord's seminal publication,The Singer of Tales, and the seventy-fifth anniversary of Parry's death.

Charles Olson, 1910-1970: A Centennial Selection from the Ralph Maud Collection
November 2010 - December 2010
Houghton Library celebrates both the centennial of the birth of this important modernist poet and the 2009 gift of the Ralph Maud Collection of Charles Olson in this small exhibition of highlights from the collection. Olson, who reputedly coined the term “postmodern” to describe his work in chronological comparison with earlier Modernists such as Pound and Williams, had strong local connections: born in Worcester, he summered in Gloucester, and briefly was a student at Harvard.

Return to Top