Bad King John

A.A. Milne’s King John stares at a row of Christmas cards he has sent himself in “King John’s Christmas,” from Now We Are Six, first edition, London, 1927. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A.A. Milne’s King John stares at a row of Christmas cards he has sent himself in “King John’s Christmas,” from Now We Are Six, first edition, London, 1927. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

We love to hate villains. Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort horrifies us with his flagrant use of the Unforgivable Curses. Before him, Darth Vader of Star Wars fame was the true embodiment of evil as he built the Death Star and battled his children. But long before the Dark Lord and the Dark Side, there was King John, one of the original bad guys.

With a reputation spanning 800 years, King John may hold the title for the longest-running scoundrel. Most of us first encountered John as Robin Hood’s miserly nemesis. As legend goes, Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. His heroic generosity was an affront to the selfish Prince John, brother of the righteous King Richard, the Lionheart. Prince John levied crippling taxes on his poor subjects so that he could lounge in luxury. It was Robin Hood’s swift bows and arrows, as well as his skilled swordplay, that ended the tyrannical prince’s scheming.

Robin Hood was a fictional character who stole from the rich to give to the poor. His miserly nemesis, Prince John, was the real thing—becoming King of England in 1199. King John appears in this detail from an illuminated manuscript on vellum of the genealogical chronicle of the Kings of England from the late 15th century. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Robin Hood was a fictional character who stole from the rich to give to the poor. His miserly nemesis, Prince John, was the real thing—becoming King of England in 1199. King John appears in this detail from an illuminated manuscript on vellum of the genealogical chronicle of the Kings of England from the late 15th century. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The youngest of five sons of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Prince John became King John of England in 1199. During King John’s disastrous reign, Pope Innocent III excommunicated him in a dispute about who should be Archbishop of Canterbury. King John lost key English holdings during a miserable military campaign in France, and after a civil war, his barons forced him to affix his seal to Magna Carta. King John subsequently convinced the Pope to declare Magna Carta null and void, and the country lapsed back into civil war. The war ended only when King John died of dysentery a year later. King John’s bad reputation was well earned, and since his time, no King of England has taken his name.

The legend of Robin Hood plays a large role in the perpetuation of Bad King John’s legacy, and over the centuries, many people have had great fun at King John’s expense. In 1927, A.A. Milne (the author of Winnie-the-Pooh) wrote a popular children’s poem titled “King John’s Christmas,” adorned with now-famous illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard. The poem begins:

King John was not a good man—
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.

The first page of A.A. Milne’s “King John’s Christmas” as printed in Now We Are Six, first edition, London, 1927. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The first page of A.A. Milne’s “King John’s Christmas” as printed in Now We Are Six, first edition, London, 1927. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In Milne’s poem, King John is melancholy about Christmas. What he most wants is a big, red, india-rubber ball, but because he is “not a good man,” no one wants to give him a present. Then, on Christmas morning, someone in a rowdy band of boys and girls throws a big, red, india-rubber ball at King John’s head as he peers out his bedroom window. King John thinks his Christmas wish has finally come true, but we are in on the joke.

The real King John would no doubt have been appalled by his depiction in Milne’s classic poem. But we sit back and relish the moment—watching a legendary bad guy get what he deserves.

An image of King John’s tomb in Worcester Cathedral in England, from A genealogical history of the kings of England, and monarchs of Great Britain, &c. from the conquest, anno 1066 to the year, 1677, (1707), by Francis Sandford (1630–1694), rendered here in black and white. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

An image of King John’s tomb in Worcester Cathedral in England, from A genealogical history of the kings of England, and monarchs of Great Britain, &c. from the conquest, anno 1066 to the year, 1677, (1707), by Francis Sandford (1630–1694), rendered here in black and white. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

For more about the real-life King John and the history and enduring impact of the Great Charter that King John signed in 1215, stop by the exhibition “Magna Carta: Law and Legend, 1215–2015,” which runs through Oct. 12, 2015, in the Library’s West Hall.

Related content on Verso:
(The) Magna C(h)arta (July 21, 2015)
Running at Runnymede (June 9, 2015)

Vanessa Wilkie is William A. Moffett Curator of British Historical Manuscripts at The Huntington.

Pioneers at the Wheel

A 1903 Cadillac from the Petersen Automotive Museum, on display at The Huntington’s Aug. 8 event to celebrate the publication of Motoring West, Volume 1, Automobile Pioneers, 1900–1909, edited by Peter J. Blodgett. Photo by Martha Benedict.

A 1903 Cadillac from the Petersen Automotive Museum, on display at The Huntington’s Aug. 8 event to celebrate the publication of Motoring West, Volume 1, Automobile Pioneers, 1900–1909, edited by Peter J. Blodgett. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Heroic tales of 19th-century frontiersmen pushing westward across the American continent have a tenacious hold on the popular imagination. Think, for instance, of Lewis and Clark exploring the waterways of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase or the tragedy of the Donner Party travelling by wagon train to reach California. Yet few discuss the trials and tribulations of another set of pioneers—those who hit the road at the turn of the 20th century to explore the West by automobile.

“Their accounts have been lost to view for 100 years,” said Peter J. Blodgett, The Huntington’s H. Russell Smith Foundation Curator of Western American Manuscripts and editor of a recently published book of essays, Motoring West, Volume 1, Automobile Pioneers, 1900–1909.

And while these more recent explorers may not have faced the same dangers as their earlier counterparts, their adventures had their own allure. Take, for example, the wonder and excitement in “Frontiering in an Automobile,” a 1903 essay included in Blodgett’s book recounting a journey from Colorado Springs to Sante Fe and back. The essay, by Colorado attorney Philip Delany and first published in Outing magazine, concludes with these lines:

We crowded what used to take months to do in nine days—nine hundred miles up mountain and down valley. The trails of Kit Carson and Boone and Crockett, and the rest of the early frontiersmen, stretch out before the adventurous automobilist. And when he is tired of the old, there are new paths to be made. He has no beaten track to follow, no schedule to meet, no other train to consider; but he can go with the speed of an express straight into the heart of an unknown land . . .

Peter J. Blodgett, The Huntington’s H. Russell Smith Foundation Curator of Western American Manuscripts and editor of Motoring West, lecturing on Aug. 8 in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Peter J. Blodgett, The Huntington’s H. Russell Smith Foundation Curator of Western American Manuscripts and editor of Motoring West, lecturing on Aug. 8 in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall. Photo by Martha Benedict.

The awe of early motoring was balanced by the reality of traversing a rugged landscape in a vehicle one step removed from a horse and buggy. Blodgett spoke of the challenges early automobile drivers faced during a recent public lecture at The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall. (You can listen to the lecture at iTunes U or download it directly here.) Adding to the atmosphere of the event were several vintage cars on view outdoors.

Blodgett showed a 1905 map of the U.S. that delineated mountains and rivers, but no highways. Most roads were unpaved and, in a downpour, could quickly turn into a morass popularly called “gumbo.” Drivers at the time were at the mercy of the elements, as could be seen in an ad for a Rambler touring car enticing the driver to heed “The Call of the Open Road.” Early automobiles—such as the 1903 Cadillac from the Petersen Automotive Museum on view at the event—had no roof, no windows, and no windshield. Breakdowns were frequent and repair shops nonexistent. Manufacturers typically recommended a long list of equipment to take along to make repairs, even suggesting the purchase of a second car of the same make and model to use for parts.

Despite these potential weaknesses, early automobiles offered an irresistible advantage: speed. As Delany recounts, “. . . away we went at a rate of thirty miles an hour, transfixing with wonder a few Mexicans who were camping near by.” And unlike the railroad, the “machine” could take you where you wanted to go.

With awareness of and interest in automobiles percolating through the newspapers and magazines of the early 20th century, manufacturers of other products began relying upon the motor car to promote sales of their goods, as seen in this 1908 advertisement for Cluett Town and Country Shirts. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

With awareness of and interest in automobiles percolating through the newspapers and magazines of the early 20th century, manufacturers of other products began relying upon the motor car to promote sales of their goods, as seen in this 1908 advertisement for Cluett Town and Country Shirts. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The first autos were luxury items reserved for the wealthy. A 1909 Rambler, for example, cost $2,250 at a time when most people’s annual salary hovered around $1,000 to $1,500. Marketers caught on to the appeal of automobiles as attractive emblems of prosperity and used them to sell other products. For instance, an advertisement for Town and Country dress shirts by Cluett (later known for its “Arrow” line of men’s wear) showed a handsome, goggled man at the wheel of his sleek motorcar.

This volume of Motoring West is the first in Blodgett’s four-book series. At its roots is a collection of accounts of 20th-century automobile travelers in the American West amassed by Carey S. Bliss, The Huntington’s former curator of rare books. Blodgett discovered the materials as a student at Yale University and has been eager ever since to bring the stories to light. He has supplemented that collection with other materials from The Huntington’s holdings, including periodicals, pamphlets, and private diaries.

Blodgett wasn’t the only one with stories to tell about road trips and classic cars. Stirred by Blodgett’s words and strolling among the Model A’s, Packards, and Caddies on display, many participants shared accounts of their experiences. It seems the romance of motoring lives on.

This 1908 advertisement in Sunset assured the reader that the White steamer could surmount any obstacle on the road, ranging far beyond the realm of “improved highways.” A “true” touring car, the manufacturer asserted, could take the traveler to precincts of the “greatest natural beauty,” even if it had to cross the most intractable terrain. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

This 1908 advertisement in Sunset assured the reader that the White steamer could surmount any obstacle on the road, ranging far beyond the realm of “improved highways.” A “true” touring car, the manufacturer asserted, could take the traveler to precincts of the “greatest natural beauty,” even if it had to cross the most intractable terrain. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

You can read Peter Blodgett’s essay “How Americans Fell in Love with Taking Road Trips,” written for What It Means to Be American, a national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zócalo Public Square, on the website of Time.

You can also read a story about Blodgett and his book on the website of the Los Angeles Times.

Blodgett’s book, Motoring West, may be purchased online from the Huntington Store.

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington. She is a Los Angeles-based communications consultant.

A Decidedly British Approach to Humor

Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756–1827), ‘Tis Time to Jump Out, 1805. Pen and watercolor. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gilbert Davis Collection.

Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756–1827), ‘Tis Time to Jump Out, 1805. Pen and watercolor. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gilbert Davis Collection.

The painter, social critic, and editorial cartoonist William Hogarth (1697–1764) set the standard for modern English satire. He saw caricatures imported from the Continent and argued for the creation of a distinctly British approach to social satire—one based on observing Londoners going about their daily lives. Soon caricature drawing became jolly good business for British artists.

Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and Isaac Cruikshank (1764–1811) got in on the game and ran with it, helping to create the golden age of British caricature by employing comedic titles, among other techniques. Take a look at a watercolor of a near-death, horse-and-carriage experience from The Huntington’s collections. It’s on view in “Funny Business: Humor in British Drawings from Hogarth to Rowlandson” in the Huntington Art Gallery’s Works on Paper Room through Nov. 30.

Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756–1827), Force of Imagination, late 18th century, pen and watercolor. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Mrs. Edward W. Bodman.

Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756–1827), Force of Imagination, late 18th century, pen and watercolor. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Mrs. Edward W. Bodman.

Rowlandson created a dynamic, diagonal composition depicting a terrifying scene of eye-rolling horses with front hooves aloft, pulling a careening carriage and screaming passengers right off the edge of a cliff. Your heart races just looking at the picture, no less so than if it were a scene in the latest Vin Diesel film. You’re 100 percent absorbed in the drama, and then you glance down at the title written below: Tis Time to Jump Out. Not ‘Tis Time to Freak Out and Run like Hell. Not even ‘Tis Time to Receive Your Last Rites. But ‘Tis Time to Jump Out—an homage to British civility and the art of the understatement, if there ever was one.

Other chortle-inducing works in the show include a purely visual bit of romantic humor by Rowlandson that shows an impassioned suitor down on one knee proposing marriage to a nightgown that he’s mistaken for his beloved. Another is a slapstick scene by Cruikshank of loose pigs wreaking havoc on shoppers and apple carts in a London street fair. Livestock was commonly driven through the area twice weekly. Cruikshank seems to be raising an eyebrow, figuratively speaking, and saying, “Really? Should we be allowing such mayhem?”

Isaac Cruikshank (British, 1764–1811), Unruly Pigs, 1799, pen and watercolor over pencil, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

Isaac Cruikshank (British, 1764–1811), Unruly Pigs, 1799, pen and watercolor over pencil, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

’Tis Time for a Vote in Parliament might be the proper response. Or, even better, ‘Tis Time for a Spot of Tea.

Thea M. Page is the director of marketing communications at The Huntington.

Small Hands at Work

Instructor Emily Earhart leads children through The Huntington’s historic Valencia orange groves to pick fruit. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Instructor Emily Earhart leads children through The Huntington’s historic Valencia orange groves to pick fruit. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Huntington Explorers summer camp recently finished its 14th year at The Huntington. Each day for three weeks, children aged 5-12 explored The Huntington’s library, art, and botanical collections in classes about everything from the art of storytelling to the world of science. We share the experience of one instructor, Emily Earhart, a food anthropologist and professional chef, who taught “Edible Gardens” and “Fun with Food.” Registration for next year’s Explorers program will begin in April 2016.

For a few weeks this summer, children put aside electronic tablets and game consoles to learn about edible plants growing at The Huntington. Many of the youngsters were very sophisticated in their understanding of food.

“Even the younger kids were very knowledgeable,” said Earhart. “They knew about seasonal foods, local foods, and how foods could be prepared.” And Earhart gave kudos to parents for including vegetables in their kids’ diets. “Many kids told me they loved vegetables—especially spinach and broccoli,” she said.

Children took their task seriously—searching out big, round, firm oranges to make their juice. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Children took their task seriously—searching out big, round, firm oranges to make their juice. Photo by Deborah Miller.

While the children knew quite a lot about food, Earhart found they needed a bit of guidance on some of the practical skills they needed to complete the crafts she planned.

For instance, one project had children creating bracelet-like music makers by threading pumpkin seeds, kukui nuts, and acorns along a strand of hemp or ribbon. Some children were having trouble with the overhand knot and lark’s head knot until Earhart gave them one-on-one demonstrations. Even then, some of the children found it difficult to adjust the knots to the right tightness—although many of the older girls found doing so easy. “My hunch is that they had prior experience from making friendship bracelets,” said Earhart.

In another project, older children sewed sachets and filled them with relaxing herbs from the herb garden. Many of the girls had tried sewing before, but few of the boys had. All of the children were up for the challenge and got the hang of the running stitch. Still, many found it hard to keep the stitches small and close together.

Earhart took children on field trips around the property so that they could see edible plants up close, making stops at the Herb Garden, Conservatory, Rose Garden, and the historic orange groves. Despite the heat, which often hovered around 90 degrees, children loved the adventure of leaving their air-conditioned classrooms to go out and explore.

Emily Earhart helps a student juice a just-picked orange. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Emily Earhart helps a student juice a just-picked orange. Photo by Martha Benedict.

The visit to the orange groves was the hands-down favorite. Henry Huntington used the historic grove of Valencia oranges for commercial production. Today, the harvested oranges are donated to local food banks through an organization called Food Forward.

Each Explorer got to pick two oranges. Earhart was impressed by how thoughtful the children were about picking fruit. “Is this a good one to pick? Is this one ready? Is this one too old?” they asked.

“I had the sense that few had picked fruit before,” she said.

Earhart was surprised when they returned to the classroom to juice the oranges. “I thought juicing would be a mundane activity that they had done many times before. In fact, for many it was the first time,” said Earhart.

Children were surprised to discover how many oranges it took to make enough juice for all of them to have a taste. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Children were surprised to discover how many oranges it took to make enough juice for all of them to have a taste. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Lily Kate, Victor, and Grace in the 5–6 year-old class screeched with laughter as their hands vibrated on the electric juicer. “It tickles my hands,” exclaimed one. Happily, the results were delicious. “This is the best O.J. I’ve ever tasted,” declared a child from the 7–8 year-old class. “It’s so sweet!”

By the end of the two classes, children had made lip balm infused with herbs, dyed a bandana with natural dyes, prepared a salad with just-picked ingredients, preserved watermelon rind, and planted seeds for a take-home mini-garden.

They also got a taste of old-fashioned summer—keeping their small hands busy not on a keyboard or screen, but by growing, picking, smelling, and tasting Nature’s bounty.

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Living and Writing on the Edge

“ . . . I want to stay in the game a while longer, so I can piss a lot of people off. If I live to be eighty, I’ll really piss them off.” From “Paying for Horses: An Interview with Charles Bukowski,” by Robert Wennersten, 1974. Charles Bukowski, who loved betting on horses, holding a racing form. Photo by Michael Montfort, 1982. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“ . . . I want to stay in the game a while longer, so I can piss a lot of people off. If I live to be eighty, I’ll really piss them off.” From “Paying for Horses: An Interview with Charles Bukowski,” by Robert Wennersten, 1974. Charles Bukowski, who loved betting on horses, holding a racing form. Photo by Michael Montfort, 1982. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Poets, of course, aren’t the only ones to suffer in our world, they just talk more about it.
—Charles Bukowski, from “Looking Back at a Big One.”

Sunday, August 16, marks the 95th anniversary of the birth of Charles Bukowski (1920–1994), whose poems, short stories, and novels depicted ordinary men and women struggling to survive in an unforgiving world.

To celebrate his birthday, Bukowski fans in Southern California can head to his hometown, San Pedro, for “Charles Bukowski: The Laughing Heart,” a festival that will feature readings from books, reminiscences about his life, and a screening of the 2005 feature film Factotum—based on Bukowski’s 1975 novel of the same title—starring Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor. (For further information, check the website for the San Pedro Film Festival.)

Since Bukowski’s death, interest in his writings has flourished unabated among new generations of readers, as well as among his longtime fans and followers. Possessing one of the most original voices in 20th-century American literature, Bukowski lived and wrote on the edge—in the shadowy outskirts of society and the literary establishment. His poems and tales tell of his life among society’s outcasts—prostitutes, drunks, and gamblers. In telling these stories, he wrote in simple, natural language, repudiating formal literary subjects and conventions used by other writers. He strove to keep his writing “raw, easy and simple,” to grasp the “hard, clean line that says it.”

“All I need now is what I needed then: a desk lamp, the typer, the bottle, the radio, classical music, and this room on fire.” From “I am a Mole.” Self-portrait by Charles Bukowski. Undated. From the collection of Linda Lee Bukowski.

“All I need now is what I needed then: a desk lamp, the typer, the bottle, the radio, classical music, and this room on fire.” From “I am a Mole.” Self-portrait by Charles Bukowski. Undated. From the collection of Linda Lee Bukowski.

The Huntington began acquiring Bukowski’s papers in 2006, as a generous gift from his wife, Linda Lee Bukowski. Today the collection includes thousands of corrected typescripts of poetry, files of correspondence, rare editions of Bukowski’s works, and exceptionally rare issues of “little magazines” that published his earliest writings. The collection continues to grow, as Linda Bukowski transfers material to the Library on a regular basis.

In addition, the library has added a superb collection of closely related material, including photographer Michael Montfort’s images of Bukowski. In 2014, Montfort’s daughter, Daisy Montfort Spooler, donated his entire archive of thousands of photographs to the Library.

Montfort spent years documenting Bukowski, and his photographs appeared in such Bukowski classics as Shakespeare Never Did This, an account of the writer’s European book tour, as well as Horsemeat, a volume featuring Bukowski’s poems on horse racing and photographs of him at the racetrack. Montfort’s camera beautifully captured the rugged, ravaged face of the poet who sang of the downtrodden and their gritty lives of constant struggle.

By challenging the literary and cultural establishment, and by speaking for those on the edge, Bukowski forged a deep bond with his readers. That bond is as strong as ever, and his fans around the world will honor the poet and his words on August 16 in various ways—by visiting his gravesite, reading their favorite Bukowski poems and stories, and participating in festivals dedicated to his work.

“I’m simple, I’m not profound. My genius stems from an interest in whores, working men, streetcar drivers—lonely, beaten-down people.” From “Faulkner, Hemingway, Mailer . . . And Now Bukowski?!” an interview with Ron Blunden, 1978. Photo by Eckharth Palutke, ca.1980. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“I’m simple, I’m not profound. My genius stems from an interest in whores, working men, streetcar drivers—lonely, beaten-down people.” From “Faulkner, Hemingway, Mailer . . . And Now Bukowski?!” an interview with Ron Blunden, 1978. Photo by Eckharth Palutke, ca.1980. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Bukowski’s novel Ham on Rye and his posthumous poetry collection What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire are available online from the Huntington Store.

Related content on Verso:
Bukowski on iTunes (Nov. 14, 2010)
Bukowski on the Inside (Oct. 8, 2010)

Sara S. “Sue” Hodson is curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington.

Animated History

The title frame from the storyboard that director Cosmo Segurson created for the film The Huntington: A History in Ten Minutes.

The title frame from the storyboard that director Cosmo Segurson created for the film The Huntington: A History in Ten Minutes.

Next time you’re in the Mapel Orientation Gallery, take 10 minutes to watch a delightful new film about the history of The Huntington. Designed and directed by Los Angeles–based filmmaker and animator Cosmo Segurson, it tells the story of Henry and Arabella Huntington and how the institution they created came to be. The film presents visitors with a visual smorgasbord that includes animation, live action, and still images from The Huntington’s collections.

Since graduating from film school at California Institute of the Arts in 1996, Segurson has been making short films and working in the animation industry. He says that being a storyboard artist by trade helps him resolve complex technical questions before spending the time, money, or energy on a film production.

    This section of the storyboard evokes Henry Huntington’s first visit to Southern California in 1892. An animated train engine chugs across a map of the region in the final frame.

This section of the storyboard evokes Henry Huntington’s first visit to Southern California in 1892. An animated train engine chugs across a map of the region in the final frame.

“I use storyboards to communicate with everyone involved with the production,” says Segurson. “I use them to plan my compositions or to provide a jumping off point for designers, cinematographers, actors, and even musicians.” Segurson’s artistry turns once-still photographs into active, clever animations that bring history alive.

The film evokes Henry Huntington’s first visit to Southern California in the spring of 1892. An animated train engine chugs merrily across a map of the region. Archival images give us glimpses of the working ranch in San Marino with its majestic oak groves that Huntington would purchase in 1903. We also observe a rapidly developing Los Angeles. The film incorporates dynamic splashes of color in both the animations and photography.

“Most of the images are from the archives at The Huntington,” says Segurson. “I manipulated them, turning to photography and printing techniques from the Gilded Age for inspiration. Magic lantern slides and penny postcards often used hand-colored printing techniques that I emulated in the film.”

An image of Arabella Huntington moving across a dark globe represents her frequent transatlantic journeys to Europe.

An image of Arabella Huntington moving across a dark globe represents her frequent transatlantic journeys to Europe.

The photographs are originals, but the animation makes them pop. Black-and-white animated scenes of industrial cogs and gears highlight the story of the development of railroads. Clever high-contrast animations illustrate the rise of philanthropy among the nation’s wealthiest citizens in the early 20th century. We see a striking image of Arabella Huntington moving across a dark globe to represent the frequent journeys she took to Europe after the death of her first husband, Collis P. Huntington (Henry’s uncle). “I love that photo of Arabella in head-to-toe black mourning attire,” says Segurson.

The film’s music comes from the Huntingtons’ era and includes compositions by Debussy and Saint-Saëns in honor of Arabella’s penchant for all things French. A marching-band version of “I Love You, California,” composed in 1913, plays throughout the tale of Henry’s railroad successes.

Objects from the Huntingtons’ personal collections flash across the screen, providing insight into their Gilded Age lifestyle, and we learn how they designated their estate as a research and educational institution in 1919. The final minutes of the film bring us up to date on The Huntington’s history. The result is a wonderfully immersive experience. Don’t miss it.

Segurson depicts the variety of gardens at The Huntington in this colorful storyboard sequence.

Segurson depicts the variety of gardens at The Huntington in this colorful storyboard sequence.

If you can’t wait to see the film in the Mapel Orientation Gallery, then check it out now on Vimeo or YouTube.

To see more of Cosmo Segurson’s work, visit his website.

Related content on Verso:
A Window into The Huntington (July 24, 2015)
Quirky Tours (July 7, 2015)
Taking the Long View (May 19, 2015)
Let’s Get Oriented (Apr. 3, 2015)

Olivia Hummer is an intern in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Worth the Wait

As part of periodic maintenance, the tea garden’s machiai or waiting bench received new rice paper to line its walls. Kyoto landscape designer Takuhiro Yamada consults his notes. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

As part of periodic maintenance, the tea garden’s machiai or waiting bench received new rice paper to line its walls. Kyoto landscape designer Takuhiro Yamada consults his notes. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

If you’re thinking of stopping by the Japanese Garden’s Seifu-an teahouse for the second-Monday-of-the-month tour on Aug. 10, then be sure to visit the waiting bench, or Koshikake-machiai, in the tea garden. It recently received a sprucing up by Kyoto landscape architect Takuhiro Yamada, who helped design the tea garden.

In a traditional Japanese tea garden, visitors need a place to wait for the start of the tea ceremony. The Koshikake-machiai (or just machiai) is a sheltered bench where guests sit and contemplate the beauty and tranquility of the garden. The tea ceremony is then signaled by a gong—or, more subtly, by the sound of the host pouring a pail of fresh water into the tsukubai, a basin that tea ceremony guests use to wash their hands and mouth in a symbolic cleansing.

Yamada removes the old, faded rice paper from the machiai. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

Yamada removes the old, faded rice paper from the machiai. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

The machiai is exposed to the elements and so requires periodic maintenance. Built from Alaskan yellow cedar (a wood that resembles the prized hinoki, or Japanese cypress), the inside of the structure is lined with a strong Japanese rice paper dyed indigo. The paper helps ensure a guest doesn’t tear or soil her kimono—a garment typically made from hand-dyed silk, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Yamada removed the faded rice paper lining the walls and cut new paper to size. He then used a Japanese raccoon bristle brush to apply a type of glue made from seaweed that has strong fixative properties but is also removable.

Elsewhere in the garden, he added a stone pathway, pruned and shaped some of the shrubs and trees, and put finishing touches on the garden’s second tsukubai.

The landscape designer takes careful measurements and then cuts new pieces. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

The landscape designer takes careful measurements and then cuts new pieces. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

The Huntington installed the tea garden, along with the Seifu-an teahouse, in 2012 to commemorate the Japanese Garden’s 100th anniversary. Kyoto-based architect and craftsman Yoshiaki Nakamura built the machiai. The garden’s design was a collaboration between Yamada and landscape designers Takeo and Keiji Uesugi of Los Angeles.

Three years after the garden’s installation, Yamada is pleased with the results. “This is a good Japanese tea garden,” he says.

Still, he’s waiting for the shrubs and trees to grow larger so that he can further shape them in keeping with traditional Japanese garden aesthetics. Like the guests waiting for the beginning of the tea ceremony, he’s anticipating that it will be worth the wait.

Each panel is glued into place using a strong but removable adhesive made from seaweed. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

Each panel is glued into place using a strong but removable adhesive made from seaweed. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

Learn the traditions behind the Japanese Garden’s ceremonial teahouse. Informal tours take place at 20-minute intervals on the second Monday of every month; the next tour occurs on Aug. 10. No reservations required. General admission.

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age

The Huntington’s Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, open to the first lines of “The Tale of Melibee,” as seen through the Mirador viewer. Along the bottom of the screen, you can see each image of the individual pages that comprise the volume. This feature makes it easy to scroll through images and zoom in on particular  passages or illustrations.

The Huntington’s Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, open to the first lines of “The Tale of Melibee,” as seen through the Mirador viewer. Along the bottom of the screen, you can see each image of the individual pages that comprise the volume. This feature makes it easy to scroll through images and zoom in on particular passages or illustrations.

The Huntington’s Ellesmere Chaucer, an illuminated manuscript produced around the year 1400, is the most handsome extant version of The Canterbury Tales in the world. Many scholars believe Geoffrey Chaucer oversaw some of its production. If you’ve ever read The Canterbury Tales, then chances are the version you read was closely based on this remarkable manuscript, which Henry Huntington purchased as part of the Bridgewater Library in 1917.

The Huntington has recently partnered with Stanford University and other rare book and manuscript repositories to make medieval manuscripts accessible in new ways. People can now view online seven of our most prized 15th-century medieval manuscript volumes—including the Ellesmere Chaucer and manuscripts by the poets John Lydgate and Thomas Hoccleve—through an enhanced viewer called Mirador. Through Mirador, you can scan thumbnail images of an entire text, read a single folio, or view images sequentially in book format. You can also zoom in on areas of interest and even tag parts of images to leave your own notes. (You can play around with a live demo version here. However, the notes feature is not active in this version.) Since Mirador is a global collaboration, you can use it to view hundreds of other medieval manuscripts from libraries around the world.

Side-by-side comparison of the first folios of the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.  The image on the left is from The Huntington’s Ellesmere Chaucer; the image on the right is from the Hengwrt Chaucer at the National Library of Wales.

Side-by-side comparison of the first folios of the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. The image on the left is from The Huntington’s Ellesmere Chaucer; the image on the right is from the Hengwrt Chaucer at the National Library of Wales.

And that’s just the beginning! Benjamin Albritton, digital manuscripts program manager at Stanford University Libraries and one of the developers of this technology, says Mirador’s “specialty is comparison—across folios, objects, collections, and repositories.” Rather than trying to maneuver through the digital libraries of two different archives, each with its own unique navigational settings, readers using Mirador can use a single set of online tools to compare pages from different institutions.

For example, the same 15th-century scribe who created The Huntington’s Ellesmere Chaucer also wrote another copy, the Hengwrt Chaucer, which is kept at the National Library of Wales. With the live demo, you can pull up the first folio of the Ellesmere manuscript and compare it side-by-side with the Hengwrt version; you can also zoom in and out or turn the pages to move through the volumes. Notice differences in the large opening initial? What about the first few lines of the text? What clues tell us that the same scribe wrote both versions? You can even add into the mix a third, late-15th-century version of The Canterbury Tales from the Fondation Martin Bodmer in Cologny, Switzerland.

Mirador is a free and open access source, which means anyone with an Internet connection can use the program. Researchers can now study these manuscripts in their offices; teachers can use them in their classrooms; and literary fans can sit in their pajamas at home and read the same pages of Chaucer that people have been reading for 600 years. These 21st-century technologies are making 15th-century manuscripts accessible to us all.

This screen-shot lines up the prologue to The Knight’s Tale from three copies of The Canterbury Tales. The image on the left is from The Huntington’s Ellesmere Chaucer; the image in the middle is from the Hengwrt Chaucer at the National Library of Wales; and the image on the right is from a late-15th-century version of The Canterbury Tales at the Fondation Martin Bodmer in Cologny, Switzerland.

This screen-shot lines up the prologue to The Knight’s Tale from three copies of The Canterbury Tales. The image on the left is from The Huntington’s Ellesmere Chaucer; the image in the middle is from the Hengwrt Chaucer at the National Library of Wales; and the image on the right is from a late-15th-century version of The Canterbury Tales at the Fondation Martin Bodmer in Cologny, Switzerland.

For a more technical description of this program, as well as instructions on how to access the full version of Mirador and similar tools, read Benjamin Albritton’s post here.

Vanessa Wilkie is William A. Moffett Curator of Medieval and British Historical Manuscripts at The Huntington.

Dazzling in the Midst of War

Cover for the second issue of Blast, 1915, designed by Wyndham Lewis (British, 1879–1939), woodcut. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, and New York: John Lane Company, 1914–1915. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Cover for the second issue of Blast, 1915, designed by Wyndham Lewis (British, 1879–1939), woodcut. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, and New York: John Lane Company, 1914–1915. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

What do avant-garde art and Britain’s Royal Navy have in common? The answer is Edward Wadsworth (1889–1949), a British artist whose work is currently part of The Huntington’s “Between Modernism and Tradition: British Works on Paper, 1914–1948” exhibition, on view in the Huntington Art Gallery through Sept. 21, 2015.

Wadsworth was one of the original members of the Vorticist group, a short-lived, avant-garde artistic and literary movement inspired by Cubism and Futurism. The English painter Wyndham Lewis and the American poet Ezra Pound, who published the magazine Blast as a platform for their ideas, founded Vorticism. As an artistic style, Vorticism was known for jarring colors and assertive lines as well as an embrace of modernity and the machine age. The second issue of the magazine, on view in the exhibition, has a cover designed by Lewis, depicting armed men moving as if mechanized through a tangled geometric cityscape.

Wadsworth was a signatory of the Vorticist manifesto published in Blast and contributed to the content of the magazine. His image of Street Singers from 1914, on display in the exhibition, clearly reveals the artist’s sympathy with Vorticism, especially in its interest in the machine. Without the drawing’s title, it would be possible to mistake these human forms for the metal gears and bolts of some great mechanical apparatus.

Edward Wadsworth (British, 1889–1949), Street Singers, ca. 1914, ink on wove paper. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Edward Wadsworth (British, 1889–1949), Street Singers, ca. 1914, ink on wove paper. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Only 33 days after the publication of the first issue of Blast, England declared war on Germany. Wadsworth signed up for the navy in 1915, shortly after the second and final issue came out. Fellow Vorticist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska had already been killed at the front. Wadsworth, however, was sent to the Greek island of Lemnos, where the Allies had a base at Mudros. There, it was Wadsworth’s skills as an artist, rather than his skills as a sailor, that were called upon in the service of his country.

Wadsworth spent the war transferring camouflage patterns onto the hulls of ships. This camouflage, however, didn’t employ the typical muted tones designed to conceal ordnance from the enemy by blending in with the environment. Wadsworth painted camouflage patterns that consisted of graphic lines and shapes in bold colors—black, blue, green, and even neon red.

Called “dazzle” (or “razzle dazzle”) camouflage, these painted designs were not intended to conceal the ships they covered. Rather, dazzle camouflage worked to confuse and disorient the enemy. Developed by the English painter Norman Wilkinson and based on the ideas of the Scottish zoologist John Graham Kerr, the complex patterns, made up of disrupting lines and contrasting colors, were intended to prevent the enemy from gauging a vessel’s speed, size, and direction. Kerr compared dazzle’s irregular outlines and contrasting shades to the coloring of a giraffe, zebra, or jaguar, which “looks extraordinarily conspicuous in a museum but in nature, especially when moving, is wonderfully difficult to pick up.”

Starboard view of the USS New Mexico (BB-40), approximately 1944, at sea, painted in dazzle camouflage. The Queen: U.S.S. New Mexico, by Charles J.A. Wilson (1880–1965), drypoint, no date, John Haskell Kemble Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Starboard view of the USS New Mexico (BB-40), approximately 1944, at sea, painted in dazzle camouflage. The Queen: U.S.S. New Mexico, by Charles J.A. Wilson (1880–1965), drypoint, no date, John Haskell Kemble Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The practical success of dazzle camouflage is a matter of debate, though it continued to be used through World War II. (The Huntington Library’s Kemble Collection includes an image of a United States dazzle ship from World War II.) Wadsworth’s own experiences with dazzle ships had a lasting effect on his later art, which became more figurative, less abstract. Though he often turned to nautical themes, he, like many of his fellow avant-garde artists, moved away from the Vorticist belief in the positive power of the machine. Indeed, it was the devastating destruction of mechanized warfare witnessed by artists such as Wadsworth during World War I that brought an end to artistic movements such as Vorticism and profoundly changed the paths of many careers.

You can see more images of dazzle ships at The Public Domain Review.

Related content on Verso:
Lusitania’s Anchor to the Past (May 7, 2015)

Katherine Christiansen is an intern in the art division at The Huntington.

Melinda McCurdy is associate curator of British art at The Huntington.

A Nose for the Rose

The rose ‘Twilight Zone’ exudes a scent reminiscent of lemon and clove. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

The rose ‘Twilight Zone’ exudes a scent reminiscent of lemon and clove. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem,
For that sweet odour, which doth in it live . . .

So wrote Shakespeare four centuries ago, and many people today would agree that while the beauty of a rose is exceptional, what truly inspires us is its scent.

The Huntington’s historic Rose Garden is home to 1,400 rose cultivars, with two large beds dedicated entirely to the collection’s most fragrant roses. Cultivars like ‘Twilight Zone’ and ‘Julia Child’ have a spicy scent, while fruitier fragrances like those of ‘Just Joey’ and ‘George Burns’ also hang in the air.

Not that producing fragrant roses is a walk in the park for plant hybridizers.

As luck would have it, lack of fragrance is a dominant trait, showing up far more frequently than the recessive trait of fragrance, says Tom Carruth—an award-winning hybridizer of roses and the E.L. and Ruth B. Shannon Curator of the Rose Collections at The Huntington.

‘Tamora’ has a strong scent of myrrh with citrus undertones. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

‘Tamora’ has a strong scent of myrrh with citrus undertones. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

“For a rose to have a strong scent, it must inherit the fragrance gene from both of its parents,” says Carruth. In addition, perfume is genetically linked in roses to color instability, shorter vase life, and disease susceptibility, further challenging rose breeders.

That perhaps explains why some people mistakenly got the impression that roses had lost their scent. Not so, says Carruth. Most breeders of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s were striving for lasting pure colors to the detriment of fragrance. Yet a few diligent hybridizers of that time recognized the marketability of new and potently fragrant cultivars, laying the groundwork for modern garden roses of today. Gardeners have an abundant choice of beautiful and perfumed roses.

The florist trade, on the other hand, still struggles to produce plants combining beauty and fragrance. Today, florist roses are imported from distant countries—such as Ecuador, Israel, and Kenya. For these roses, long-life and lasting color are paramount.

“Greenhouse roses are bred for stable color, stem length, and shipability,” says Carruth. “Those characteristics have generally come at the expense of fragrance.”

Developed by Carruth in 2004, ‘Julia Child’ is prized for its spicy fragrance and constant yellow blooms. Celebrity chef Julia Child chose the cultivar to bear her name. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Developed by Carruth in 2004, ‘Julia Child’ is prized for its spicy fragrance and constant yellow blooms. Celebrity chef Julia Child chose the cultivar to bear her name. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Help may be on the way thanks to some recent research. Scientists at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research announced earlier this month that they have discovered the gene that causes the rose’s scent. The identification of the gene may enable both garden and florist rose hybridizers to breed fragrant roses more consistently.

In the meantime, The Huntington’s garden roses smell wonderful. Some of the garden’s most aromatic cultivars include ‘Twilight Zone’, redolent of clove and lemon; ‘Tamora’, with its strong scent of myrrh; and ‘Julia Child’, whose perfume recalls sweet licorice and spice.

“Give the newer garden roses a try,” says Carruth, “It’s time to stop and smell them again.”

Related content on Verso:
Tough Love for Roses (May 5, 2015)

Sara Schacht is an intern in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.