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Posts Tagged ‘Houghton Library

“The imaginary is what tends to become real”*…

 

Tik-Tok of Oz, L. Frank Baum, Chicago, 1914.   Courtesy, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Maps enjoy a long tradition as a mode of literary illustration, orienting readers to worlds real and imagined. Presented in conjunction with the bicentenary of the Harvard Map Collection, this exhibition brings together over sixty landmark literary maps, from the 200-mile-wide island in Thomas More’s Utopia to the supercontinent called the Stillness in N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Visitors will traverse literary geographies from William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County to Nuruddin Farah’s besieged Somalia; or perhaps escape the world’s bothers in Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. At this intersection of literature and cartography, get your bearings and let these maps guide your way…

The map above is one of over 60 currently on display at the exhibition Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration, at Harvard’s Houghton Library, as part of year-long celebration of Houghton’s 75th birthday.  In addition to the examples mentioned above, the collection includes the work of authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and the late Ursula K. Le Guin, and spans everything from love stories to fairy tales. It runs through to April 14, 2018.

See also “Charting the Geography of Classic Literature.”

* André Breton

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As we find our way, we might send the best of all possible birthday greetings to lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, Renaissance humanist, and councillor to Henry VIII of England, Sir Thomas More; he was born on this date in 1478.  He is probably most widely known these days as the subject of Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons, which dramatized More’s fate (he was beheaded) when he refused to accept his old friend Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the newly-established Church of England.  (More was acting in accordance with his opposition to Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and the Protestant Reformation…  for which he was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.  Interestingly, he is also remembered by the Church of England as a “Reformation martyr.”)

But also importantly for the purpose of this post, More was also the author of the widely-read and widely-influential Utopia— his map from which is on display at the Houghton.

Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of More

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Written by LW

February 7, 2018 at 1:01 am

“I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine”*…

 

From Harvard’s Houghton Library (where your correspondent is currently ensconced), a pair of plates (click here for larger) from Jean Errard‘s Instruments mathematiques mechaniques, 1584.  Errard, who was a pioneering mathematician, engineer, and developer of military fortifications, is thought by some scholars to have based these drawings on thoughts from Archimedes.  In any case, they’re a treat.

* Hugo Cabret (in Brian Seltznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret)

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As we muse on mechanization, we might send well-suspended birthday greetings to John M. Mack; he was born on this date in 1864.  At the turn of the 20th century, mack and his brother Augustus developed a successful gasoline-powered sightseeing bus; then in 1905, they joined with three other brothers to form the Mack Brothers Motor Car Company.  They continued to build sightseeing buses, but shifted their focus increasingly to heavy-duty trucks; then, in 1909, they produced the first engine-driven fire truck in the United States.  With financing from J.P. Morgan, the company grew into what we now know as the Mack Truck Company.

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Written by LW

October 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

How to boldly go where no man has gone before…

 

As American readers prepare to head for the multiplex for the premiere of Star Trek- Into the Darkness, they might want to take a brief detour down memory lane:  Harvard’s Houghton Library has released excerpts of a 31-page photocopied writers’ guide for the original Star Trek series, written in 1967, that was meant to help writers for the then year-old show—as well as prospective writers working on spec scripts—nail the tone and content of a typical “Trek” episode.

The pages list characters and their attributes (Captain Kirk is “a space-age Horatio Hornblower, constantly on trial with himself, a strong, complex personality”), outline dos and don’ts of costuming (no pockets; no space suits), and suggest places where writers working outside the studio can seek technical advice (ask nearby universities, “your local NASA office,” or anyone in the “aero-space research and development industry”).

Coming at the tail end of a decade and a half of science fiction television of variable quality, “Star Trek” was eager to establish itself as a new breed of more realistic space opera. The third page image below describes a scenario in which Captain Kirk comforts a female crewmember as an alien vessel attacks. The guide asks readers to identify the problem with this “teaser.” The answer: “Concept weak. This whole story opening reeks too much of ‘space pirate’ or similar bad science fiction.” Captain Kirk would never hug a fellow crewman as danger approached; he’d be too busy trying to solve the problem.

It’s clear that the guide’s anonymous author knew that those in charge were asking a lot of their writers. At the end of a list of Frequently Asked Questions appears this one:

Q: Are you people on LSD?

A: We tried, but we couldn’t keep it lit.

Read the full story– and read more Writer’s Guide pages– at Slate’s new history blog, The Vault.

More?  Check out the ten most under-rated episodes from the original series.

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As we set phasers to stun, we might spare a thought for Frederick Walton; he died on this date in 1928.  The scion of a British rubber processing family, Walton was a prolific inventor.  While he patented (among many other things),  flexible metal tubing,  artificial leather, and a process for waterproofing clothing, he is surely best remembered as the inventor of linoleum.

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Written by LW

May 16, 2013 at 1:01 am

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