Houghton Library Past Exhibitions
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.
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
Lyonel Feininger's Early Photographs
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.
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.
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.