Houghton Library Offers Scholars the Rare Opportunity to Examine Rare Materials
February 8, 2002 --"Books may be accumulated and guarded, and the result is sometimes called a library; but if the books are made to help and spur men and women on in their own daily work, the library becomes a vital influence, the prison is turned into a workshop," said Justin Winsor, Librarian of Harvard College from 1877 to 1897. Houghton Library, filled with priceless rare books, manuscripts, and artwork, could have become a "prison," allowing users to come second to the tremendous responsibility of caring for the unique materials. Yet, the library's mission "to support research and instruction by members of Harvard College, Harvard University, and the national and international community of scholars" has not faltered since the library's doors opened on February 28, 1942. A new exhibition opening February 11 at Houghton entitled "A Vital Influence": Celebrating 60 Years of Scholarship and Publication at Houghton Library showcases books and manuscripts by authors who have engaged in free interaction with Houghton's collection to create their own enduring scholarly publications.
"Every day there are people in the Houghton Reading Room using our collection to research and write books and articles. For our 60th anniversary exhibition, we wanted to display the books and resources that have been generated by scholars using the materials held here," said Rachel Howarth, head of public services for Houghton.
Jacob Blanck used Houghton's original or early editions to help compile the Bibliography of American Literature.
The publications in the exhibition are organized into six categories: Landmarks in Bibliography, Editions of Value, Facsimiles, Catalogs of Distinction, Exhibitions that Endure, and Publications that Continue to Serve. Included in the displays are the rare materials that inspired and guided the publications, and information on the scholars who compiled, researched, and interpreted the materials.
The exhibit features the nine volume Bibliography of American Literature, complied by Jacob Blanck, who used many of Houghton's original or early editions to detail and describe the works of 281 American authors - a project that took almost fifty years to complete and is considered by some to be one of the finest works of scholarly bibliography. Also displayed is a facsimile of Henry James' The American: Revised in autograph for the New York Edition of 1907, created from Houghton's original copy. The photo reprint enables scholars worldwide to study James' extensive edits, including pages cut apart, pasted together, and annotated with large dialogue balloons noting text changes. Another exhibit case honors publications based on the bequest of Philip Hofer, curator of Printing and Graphic Arts from Houghton's founding until 1968. The case features a rare book frontispiece by Rembrandt van Rijn, and a 15th century Aesop with vivid woodcut illustrations. The final case of the exhibit contains items published recently, conveying the continual and constant use of Houghton's collection.
"A Vital Influence": Celebrating 60 Years of Scholarship and Publication at Houghton Library is on display through May 24 in the Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library. For details, contact Rachel Howarth at 617.495.2440.
This story appears courtesy of the Harvard College Library Communications Office
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