Caring for Camellias

Recent rains were welcome relief for Camellia japonica ‘Are-Jishi’, which has red-pink flowers in a peony form. Photo by Kate Lain.

The eastern side of the North Vista contains some of The Huntington’s oldest and most precious cultivars of camellia. William Hertrich, Henry Huntington’s superintendent of the gardens from 1903 to 1948, had a passion for the flowering plant and took advantage of San Marino’s mild winter temperatures to plant many varieties, from the bright white Camellia japonica ‘Alba Plena’ to the reddish pink C. reticulata ‘Captain Rawes’.

But mild temperatures are not enough to keep camellias looking their best. They also need consistent moisture. Recent rains have been a huge boon to the plants, especially after six years of drought.

“We hope this year’s rains signal a return to more regular rainfall,” says David MacLaren, The Huntington’s curator of Asian gardens. “But we can’t be sure.”

MacLaren says running overhead sprinklers for several hours results in water reaching roots no more than four to six inches deep. This provides some relief in dry times, but it doesn’t achieve the deep soaking that occurs with regular, consistent rains. Sustained rains, like many of the ones that have fallen so far this year, saturate the soil, giving camellias the moisture they’re craving while at the same time helping to remove harmful salts. (Rain also washes the plants’ leaves, warding off pests.)

Drip tubes crisscross a planting area on the eastern side of the North Vista, helping camellias like this C. japonica ‘Rudy’s Magnoliaeflora’ to battle drought. Photo by Kate Lain.

So a few years ago, MacLaren worked with his team and the irrigation crew to install approximately 20 miles of drip irrigation tubing in parallel lines under the camellias. The drip tubes release small amounts of water over time, allowing the moisture to reach deeper into the soil. Drip irrigation is also unaffected by local regulations that limit the duration of watering. The Huntington can run the drip irrigation for an extended period, provided the overall water-use stays below required levels.

Prolonged drought had left the camellias with a lackluster appearance and made them increasingly prone to plant pests, such as spider mites and the sometimes-fatal polyphagous shot hole borer. Several camellias had already succumbed to the deadly insect.

To date, The Huntington has installed approximately 41 miles of drip irrigation tubing in the gardens. MacLaren estimates another five miles of tubing is required to cover the entire camellia collection.

Another issue facing camellias is a loss of tree canopy. In Hertrich’s day, large and leafy coast live oaks created shady cover for the young plants. As the camellias grew, so did the oaks, some of whose canopies spanned 50 feet or more.

Then, in 2011, a major windstorm struck, knocking down more than 400 trees across the property, including several massive oaks.

With the loss of several large oaks that had provided shade, the branches of C. japonica ‘Gigantea’ became burned by the sun. Photo by Kate Lain.

Some camellias can withstand direct sunlight, especially the sasanqua species that are native to Japan. But even they prefer some relief from afternoon sun. Suddenly, there were large gaps in the tree canopy. Portions of the trunks and major branches on some of the camellias suffered severe sunburn, leading to many of their branches dying. MacLaren wanted to provide shade for the plants, but waiting for a new grove of trees to reach mature size could take decades.

He devised a plan. Dozens of camphor and Virginia oak trees were planted near the exposed camellias. Instead of planting these fast-growing trees fully in the ground, he left them in their wooden boxes, removed only the bottom panel, and then submerged the box halfway in the ground. If any of the trees grew particularly well, he could remove the box, mound soil around the base, and allow it to grow. Otherwise, he would selectively remove these sacrificial trees as other more valuable specimens created the needed canopy.

So, has the plan worked? As hoped, drip irrigation is reaching much deeper into the soil. Meanwhile, some of the camphor and Virginia oaks have grown a good 10 feet or more since they were planted, creating some much-needed shade.

And are the camellias doing any better? According to MacLaren, the answer is a qualified yes.

Even before this year’s rains, MacLaren noticed some positive signs. Normally, camellias set buds in the fall and don’t show new growth until after the bloom. But this year, gardening staff started seeing a flush of new growth much earlier than usual. And the recent rains have only helped.

“Camellias are slow to show signs of damage or improvement,” says MacLaren. “Still, the fact that the plants are showing new growth is excellent.”

Like many other camellias, C. japonica ‘Julia France’ appreciates the dappled sunlight of a tree canopy. Photo by Kate Lain.

February is one of the best months for observing camellias in bloom. On Feb. 11 and 12, hundreds of gorgeous blooms will compete for top honors at The Huntington’s 45th annual Camellia Show. View the exhibits, shop for camellia plants to grow at home, and get some expert tips on the care and cultivation of camellias. Brody Botanical Center. General admission. 

Related content on Verso:
Winter Blooms (Dec. 22, 2015)
Camellia 101 (Feb. 3, 2014)

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

Finding Molokai

Charmian London on horseback at Molokai pali (cliff) with Kalaupapa peninsula visible in the distance, July 1907. Jack London Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Charmian London on horseback at Molokai pali (cliff) with Kalaupapa peninsula visible in the distance, July 1907. Jack London Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

At daybreak on a steamy morning last August, my husband dropped me off at the Kalaupapa trailhead on the north shore of Molokai and waved goodbye.

A year earlier, I had convinced my husband and two children that this tiny, rural, and impossibly beautiful Hawaiian island was the vacation destination of their dreams. But as I stood at the edge of the pali (cliff) that plunged 2,000 feet into the sea and contemplated the cluster of warning signs—Falling rocks! No public medical facilities! No one under 16 years of age allowed! Proceed at your own risk!—I felt a twinge of fear.

The adventure writer Jack London and his wife, Charmian, had lured me to this spot. In 1907, the irrepressible duo set off from Oakland, California, on a widely publicized round-the-world trip. Sailing a custom-built, 45-foot-long sloop named the Snark, the Londons headed for Hawaii as their first port of call. Never mind that they and their ragtag crew knew nothing about navigation. London, a voracious reader since his youth, consulted “how to” books en route. After 27 days at sea, the Snark drifted into Honolulu harbor. The press had already given them up for dead.

As I hiked alone down the rugged trail, I encountered makeshift shrines along the way. Tucked into rocks, nearly hidden by ferns, were offerings of shells, plastic Madonnas, horseshoes, folded-up prayers. Markers for the two dozen switchbacks ticked by, one by one. Several deer warily eyed my progress, and a feral pig crashed across my path. At last I stood on a deserted beach looking across a dazzling bay toward a peninsula of land. Here it was: the place Jack London called “the pit of hell, the most cursed place on earth.”

Looking down on the Kalaupapa peninsula from Molokai pali, August 2016. Photo by Jenny Watts.

Looking down on the Kalaupapa peninsula from Molokai pali, August 2016. Photo by Jenny Watts.

Its breathtaking beauty notwithstanding, Kalaupapa’s dastardly reputation was justly earned. King Kamehameha V enacted a law in 1865 that criminalized sufferers of “leprosy” or what is now known as Hansen’s disease. The government arrested the ill, shipped them off to the isolated colony of Kalaupapa, regardless of their age, and then threw away the key. Over the next 100 years, at least 8,000 people died in enforced isolation. Residents were not free to leave until 1969.

Jack London received an invitation to visit the colony while hobnobbing with Honolulu’s elite. By 1907, the Board of Health (the entity that governed Kalaupapa) had made significant medical and humanitarian strides. Even so, sensationalist accounts abounded, and Pacific Rim boosters worried about the negative impact of these stories on Hawaii’s budding tourist trade. Who better, they reasoned, to help dispel the myths than renowned author Jack London?

Jack and Charmian were aware of Kalaupapa’s notoriety, and they leapt at the chance to take a tour. The sightseeing also fit into London’s scheme of writing articles to finance the trip. An accomplished amateur photographer, London knew that any pictures he supplied substantially increased his fee. (His standard rate of 15 cents a word and five dollars per published photograph was a pretty sweet deal.) To that end, London packed seven cameras: four portable folding models, two Kodak panoramas, and a stereoscopic camera with a state-of-the art lens.

Women Pa’u riders on horseback and wearing traditional costumes, Kalaupapa, Molokai, July 4, 1907. Jack London Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Women Pa’u riders on horseback and wearing traditional costumes, Kalaupapa, Molokai, July 4, 1907. Jack London Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

I had only an iPhone in my pocket as I waited for the bus that would take me on a historical tour of the area. A few National Park Service vehicles drove past. (Kalaupapa became a National Historical Park in 1980.) From what I could see, the place was as eerily quaint and idyllic as it had appeared a century earlier when Jack and Charmian rode in on horseback.

The pair stayed five days, and their hosts pulled out all the stops. They attended Fourth of July festivities at the racetrack, where the “Horribles” (as the residents jokingly called themselves) gathered to compete and bet. London marveled at the handsome P’au riders parading in traditional dress. He reveled in the games and flamboyant costumes and took a series of panoramic photos to record the events. “The chief horror of leprosy,” London reported in a glowing account that ran in Women’s Home Companion in 1908, “obtains in the minds of those who have never seen a leper and who do not know anything about the disease.” Kalaupapa’s residents were, he concluded, a “happy lot.”

Miss Kanoelani Hart (case 603), age 22, from Waimea, Hawaii, July 3, 1906. Jack London Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Miss Kanoelani Hart (case 603), age 22, from Waimea, Hawaii, July 3, 1906. Jack London Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Several of the pictures pasted into three albums stamped “Molokai” in The Huntington’s Jack London archive belie the writer’s upbeat article. There are many photos of Fourth of July revelers, as well as shots of the remarkable setting and people posed in front of well-kept buildings with tidy lawns. But none of the afflicted came to the settlement by choice, and some of the government-issue portraits included in the archive tell a darker tale. In these, the sitters’ expressions are frozen in a paralyzed grimace, and their eyes look inconsolably sad.

I reflected on these pictures—of children, in particular—as six fellow tourists and I meandered down the nearly deserted roads in an air-conditioned van. We visited a bookstore and a “bar,” each run by one of the 15 remaining residents, who seemed to resent the intrusion. Jack and Charmian enjoyed a warmer welcome on their carefully orchestrated tour. They were taken into the medical and communal facilities shared by the then 800 residents, treated to concerts, and shown the ancient archeological sites. They visited the grave of Father Damian, the sainted Belgian priest. We did, too. Father Damian made Molokai his life’s work before succumbing to Hansen’s disease at the age of 49.

Hiram Pahau (case 558), age 7, from Ala Moana near John Ena Road, admitted Oct. 27, 1905. Jack London Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Hiram Pahau (case 558), age 7, from Ala Moana near John Ena Road, admitted Oct. 27, 1905. Jack London Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Next to Father Damian’s flower-bedecked grave was that of Brother Joseph Dutton, a man the Londons mentioned in passing. Dutton served with the 13th Wisconsin Infantry during the U.S. Civil War. He spent two subsequent years digging up and reinterring Union soldiers’ remains. A disastrous marriage and heavy drinking followed before he took Catholic orders and showed up, unannounced, in 1886 on Kalaupapa’s shores. He spent the rest of his life, 44 years all told, seeking penance for his past, caring primarily for the colony’s male orphans.

The tour guide dropped me off where I had begun my journey six hours earlier. This time, the only way out was straight up. Even though I was glad I’d come, the superficial overview made me uneasy as I contemplated the weight of Kalaupapa’s history. Even Jack and Charmian had privately admitted their misgivings, and Jack later wrote a dramatic short story, “Koolau the Leper,” that enraged his hosts.

Yet it was Brother Dutton, not the Londons, I thought about as I struggled up the trail. When asked what could be done to help, Dutton’s reply was simple and profound. One does not have to travel far to encounter suffering or charity: “There are Molokais everywhere.”

Two images of Joseph Dutton on Molokai, ca. 1905. In the image on the left, Dutton sits with a group of Hawaiian men and boys. In the image on the right, Dutton is seen with a group of men on a porch of what may be the Baldwin Home for men and boys that Dutton founded on Molokai.

Two images of Joseph Dutton on Molokai, ca. 1905. In the image on the left, Dutton sits with a group of Hawaiian men and boys. In the image on the right, Dutton is seen with a group of men on a porch of what may be the Baldwin Home for men and boys that Dutton founded on Molokai.

You can view the Jack London Photographs and Negatives collection online at the Huntington Digital Library.

Related content on Verso:
A Deep Dive into Jack London’s Life (Sept. 19, 2016)
Jack and Charmian’s National Park Adventures (July 22, 2016)
Jack London and the Rose Parade (Jan. 1, 2016)
Jack London, Public Intellectual (Sept. 22, 2015)
To Build a Fire (Jan. 10, 2014)
The Star Rover (Jan. 12, 2012)
A Friend to Jack London (Sept. 15, 2011)

Jenny Watts is curator of photography and visual culture at The Huntington.

Religious Affections in Colonial North America

During the midst of the Great Awakening, the preacher, theologian, and philosopher Jonathan Edwards attempted to delineate true religious affections from false impressions and emotions. Title page of A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, 1746, by Jonathan Edwards. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In 1746, Jonathan Edwards—the famous preacher, theologian, and philosopher of the Great Awakening—tried to sort through the wide variety of experiences that doubt and faith can generate. Some experiences should be trusted as signs of grace, he argued; others, less so. Either way, Edwards remained emphatic about the importance of religious affections. A true convert, according to Edwards, doesn’t just understand God, but actually experiences sorrow for sin, joy at forgiveness, and love for God and others. “True religion,” he insisted, “in great part, consists in holy affections.”

The work that Edwards produced, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, was arguably one of the most influential and well-known attempts to puzzle out these questions. But religious affections were vital not just in evangelical circles. They shaped communities throughout colonial North America in ways that have had an abiding influence upon American cultures and histories. The goal of our conference “Religious Affections in Colonial North America,” which will take place on Jan. 27 and 28 in Haaga Hall, will be to understand religious affections better by studying the diverse range of experiences, interpretations, and consequences they entail.

What and how people were moved—and to what end—were central to the experience of religious affections. Here, the Franciscan friar and missionary Junípero Serra, recently and controversially canonized by the Catholic Church, preaches to a crowd of Native Americans holding a stone in one hand and a crucifix in the other. Frontispiece of Relacion Historica, 1787, by Francisco Palou. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Studying religious affections brings together exciting developments from multiple fields. When considering the cultural history of affections, recent work in Early American Studies has attended to the watershed of the American Revolution, a moment when sensibility and sympathy primed disparate colonists for democratic citizenship. Democracy emerged from, and then demanded, a revolution in public intimacy—requiring, producing, and policing the capacity to feel properly in the new republic.

Yet Early American Studies has also seen a surge in scholarship that takes seriously the sincerity, importance, and persistence of religion as a dynamic repertoire of cultural practices. Lived religion changes, adapts, and grows both within and alongside the seeming rise of a secular society. Rather than being displaced by modernity, religion inflected colonial shifts in politics, economics, and art. In particular, religion—like public intimacy and sensibility—was instrumental in defining community and engendering radical change, including in the spiritual lives and performances of marginalized persons. Our conference brings these trends together to consider a longer cultural history of religious affections in early America.

Great Awakening transformations, long acknowledged to have democratized religious access and authority, resonate with the spiritual lives and performances of marginalized persons, including slaves, indigenous peoples, and women. “The Sunny South—A Negro Revival meeting—A Seeker ‘Getting Religion’,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Aug. 9, 1873 issue, page 352. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

One goal for the conference will be to arrive at a better definition of “religious affections.”  Affect, sympathy, sensibility, friendship, intimacy: these keywords have been theorized and historicized by many scholars. But what happens when religion enters the picture—especially in an age formerly designated the foundational moment of secularization? Are religious affections primarily concerned with communal values and public interactions, or are they about personal and private experiences between a believer and his or her deity (or deities)? When and how do different religions enfold tenderness, desire, protectiveness, and kinship, and how do they delineate between the mundane and the spiritual, the sensuous and the cerebral?

The conference is framed by opening and closing plenaries that speak to the larger field of American religious history and the study of emotions. The opening speaker is Marilynne Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author and expert in Calvinist traditions, who will speak on Jonathan Edwards. The sessions then move through a series of regionally focused topics: New Spain, Evangelical New England, New France, the Indigenous Atlantic, and the Early South. These sessions explore the wide possibilities of religious affections in multiple communities of colonial North America.

Instruction in religious affections began in childhood in the New England colonies. First advertised in 1690, The New-England Primer was a popular schoolbook for decades and it taught Puritan beliefs along with literacy. The picture alphabet offered memorable rhymes, including the central one above about the Bible and the heart. Detail from The New-England primer, enlarged: for the more easy attaining the true reading of English, 1735. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Taken as a whole, this conference will enable us to consider more deeply the meaning of “religious affections”: what, after all, makes some emotions count as “affections,” and what distinguishes some affections as “religious”? Moreover, how does religion—with its institutional structures, its ways of giving purpose and meaning to individual lives, its function in forming communities, and its dimensions of transcendence—speak back to and alter our received histories of emotions? To draw our discussion together, therefore, we conclude with a plenary by one of the foremost scholars of religion and the history of emotions, Barbara Rosenwein, who will speak to the larger interpretative dilemmas and consequences of studying religious affections.

You can read more about the conference program and registration on The Huntington’s website.

Caroline Wigginton is assistant professor of English at the University of Mississippi.

Abram Van Engen is associate professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis.

Robert Seymour, 19th-Century Political Cartoonist

Robert Seymour, cover design for Volume One of The Looking Glass, 1830. Seymour depicts John Bull, the archetypal Englishman, turning his head to us and smiling gleefully at the rout of the Tory government by the jubilant Whigs (or Liberals). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Huntington possesses a trove of images from the golden age of British caricature—most notably by artists Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and Isaac Cruikshank (1764–1811). It also owns some gems by Robert Seymour (1798–1836), an illustrator whose fame grew around the time of Rowlandson’s death. Today, Seymour is probably best known as the illustrator of the first two installments of Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers (1836), but in his own time, Seymour was a leading political cartoonist.

Seymour benefited from the rise of the caricature magazine, a new format publishers created to appeal to an expanding market of readers who wanted value for money. His best work was for Thomas McLean’s The Looking Glass (1830–36), the most successful and impressive of this new kind of visual satire. The Huntington owns a unique, complete, colored version of this magazine.

Robert Seymour, “The Colossus,” The Looking Glass, Oct. 1831. Seymour shows Lord Brougham (whose name sounded like “broom”) as a colossus who is about to strike the Tories with his giant broom if they do not vote for reform. The scene is funny but also disturbing, as it implies that the new government could become tyrannical. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Looking Glass was published monthly and cost three shillings uncolored or six shillings hand-colored. The method of reproduction was lithography, a printing process in which the drawings were etched on long-lasting stone rather than soft metal. The price of the magazine was not cheap, but each four-page, quarto-size issue included 20 to 30 large and small images. By comparison, a single Rowlandson print in color could cost three shillings or more. This was clearly good value.

One of the factors that boosted the magazine’s success was the quality of the artwork, both in terms of Seymour’s artistry and his political insights. In Seymour’s design for the first bound volume, we see politics as an enjoyable show. He depicts John Bull, the archetypal Englishman, turning his head to us and smiling gleefully at the rout of the Tory government by the jubilant Whigs (or Liberals). Like John Bull, we are spectators gazing into the magical mirror of the political cartoon. Politicians may have power in government, but the magazine cuts them down to size.

Robert Seymour, “The Birth of Political Sin,” The Looking Glass, Nov. 1831. Seymour shows the Duke of Wellington, the hero of Waterloo and the leader of the Tories, as a character from Greek myth. Titled “The Birth of Political Sin,” the scene re-enacts the creation of the goddess Pallas Athena from the head of Zeus. The joke is that Wellington’s stubborn resistance to change had turned public opinion in favor of reform, which he and his party had opposed. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The second factor in the magazine’s success was good timing. The Looking Glass appeared during a period of political turbulence in Britain and Europe. In the wake of the French Revolution in 1830, the new Whig government in Britain introduced a modest Reform Bill designed to give more of the middle-class the vote and abolish “rotten boroughs,” where Members of Parliament could be elected by just a handful of voters. This was fiercely resisted by the Tories, who were led by the Duke of Wellington, the hero of Waterloo.

The political turmoil provided great material for Seymour. In a host of large and small cartoons, he shows Wellington and his Whig opponent Lord Brougham in various slapstick and fantastical situations. The fact that both men had large noses was another gift for Seymour, as was the pronunciation of Brougham’s name, which sounded like “broom.” In one full-page image from 1831, Seymour shows Brougham as a colossus who is about to strike the Tories (including Wellington) with his giant broom if they do not vote for reform. (The Tories did refuse to vote for reform and sparked a series of riots). The scene is funny but also disturbing, as it implies that the new government could become tyrannical.

Robert Seymour, The Schoolmaster Abroad, Plate 1, 1834. Seymour mocks Lord Brougham’s role as a leading figure in working-class education. Brougham’s attempts to convert the British people to his gospel of “useful knowledge” fell on deaf ears. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

About a year later, Seymour showed the defeated Wellington as a character from Greek myth. Titled “The Birth of Political Sin,” the scene re-enacts the creation of the goddess Pallas Athena from the head of Zeus. The joke is that Wellington’s stubborn resistance to change had turned public opinion in favor of reform, but the image is also impressively crafted. Although Seymour parodies Renaissance painting, he also borrows its beauty and compositional balance.

Seymour was a prolific comic illustrator, and The Huntington has several other very rare examples of his superior artwork. One of my favorites is The Schoolmaster Abroad (1834). Brougham is the target again. In this instance, Seymour is mocking Brougham’s role as a leading figure in working-class education. But what strikes me is the energy, vividness, and joyful inventiveness of the cartoons. The first image in this book shows Brougham riding what can only be described as a 19th-century motorcycle powered by steam, his books perched perilously close to the exhaust system. Below him is a horseless stagecoach, a comic example of technological and industrial progress that resembles an object from science fiction. Needless to say, Brougham’s attempts to convert the British people to his gospel of “useful knowledge” fall on deaf ears.

Robert Seymour, front page of Asmodeus; Or the Devil in London, June 30, 1832. Seymour reached out to a working-class readership who could afford to pay just one penny for a monthly installment of this series. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

I also admire the short-lived series Asmodeus in London (1832). It shows Seymour reaching out to a working-class readership who could afford to pay just one penny for the monthly installment. In order to achieve this very low cost, Seymour turned to wood engraving, which allowed images and text to be printed cheaply on the same page.

Seymour was a gifted and astute political cartoonist. Sadly, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1836, before he had even reached the age of 40. We are lucky to have so many examples of his fine work.

Related content on Verso:
A Decidedly British Approach to Humor (Aug. 21, 2015)
A Satirical Look at Georgian Society (Jan. 28, 2015)

Ian Haywood is professor of English Literature at the University of Roehampton in London and a 2016–17 short-term fellow at The Huntington. His books include Romanticism and Caricature and The Gordon Riots: Politics, Culture and Insurrection in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain (co-edited with John Seed).

Fairy Hunting at The Huntington

A fairy door located along the western edge of The Huntington’s Rose Garden. Photo by Kate Lain. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

The next time you walk through the faux-bois trellises along the western edge of The Huntington’s Rose Garden, see if you can find a small door, carved in miniature at the base of a tree trunk, with a pathway to it resembling a fallen leaf. The door is easy to miss, but it rewards careful observers. Children especially seem to delight in this tiny doorway—as if they expect a fairy to step out at any moment.

While young visitors might seek fairies in The Huntington’s gardens, I search for them in the Library’s collections on the history of science and technology. The Library may seem like an odd place to go fairy hunting. But as a scholar writing a book on the miniature and Victorian literature, I’ve learned this: miniature things have a habit of creating enchantment in the most unexpected places. And, despite the seeming unlikelihood of such a pursuit, I again and again find fairies in the pages of popular scientific literature.

An orange-tip butterfly, depicted with human features, from “The Disguises of Insects” (1867) in Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip: An Illustrated Medium of Interchange and Gossip for Students and Lovers of Nature. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

Take this example: I was recently reading through a bound collection of a 19th-century periodical that is promisingly called Hardwicke’s Science-Gossip: An Illustrated Medium of Interchange and Gossip for Students and Lovers of Nature. As I skimmed through articles on the movement of diatoms and on the Great Exhibition of Paris, I came across an article by the naturalist Arthur R. Wallace on “The Disguises of Insects” (1867). An illustration shows an orange-tip butterfly with a human face hiding amidst the foliage of a tree. The butterfly is, in fact, a fairy.

Wallace’s illustration is part of a 19th-century scientific tradition of describing the natural world as fairyland. Henry Slack, who later became president of the Royal Microscopical Society, described a group of protozoa in 1861 as “a tree from fairy-land, in which every leaf has a sentient life.” Charles Kingsley, a naturalist and children’s author, explained in an 1846 lecture on “How to Study Natural History” that, “in the tiniest piece of mould on a decayed fruit, the tiniest animalcule from the stagnant pool, will imagination find inexhaustible wonders, and fancy a fairy-land.”

These authors aren’t actually describing the natural world—who knows what a tree from fairyland looks like anyway? Rather, they are telling us how we should perceive nature—with a tingling sense of enchantment. This, we should think as we gaze at the natural world, is fairyland.

Richard Doyle, illustration of “The Fairy Queen Takes an Airy Drive in a Light Carriage, a Twelve-in-hand, drawn by Thoroughbred Butterflies” from In Fairy Land: A series of pictures from the elf-world by William Allingham (1870). The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

Let me pause here to give a brief history of the miniature fairy. The idea of miniature fairies is a relatively new one. In folklore and superstition, fairies are typically described as child-sized, perhaps three feet in height. Most scholars agree that Shakespeare was the first to imagine miniature fairies in Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech in Romeo and Juliet (1597). In 1798, the artist Thomas Stothard depicted fairies with butterfly wings for the first time in his illustrations for Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. Popular tradition says that a friend had suggested to Stothard that he paint Pope’s sylphs with butterfly wings. Stothard supposedly replied, “That I will, and to be correct, I will paint the wing from the butterfly itself.” Then, he ran out into his garden.

After Stothard, images proliferated of butterfly-winged fairies dwelling in flower buds and acorn cups. Artists and illustrators painted fairies in detailed natural landscapes. In fairy literature, children were transported to magical worlds adjacent to our own. In Jean Ingelow’s novella Mopsa the Fairy (1869), the child protagonist “Captain Jack” discovers a nest of three tiny fairies in a tree and then is whisked away to fairyland atop an albatross. The child reader might have felt a similar sense of transport as she turned the pages of a book filled with fairy images.

Victorian fairies were always associated with nature, but not always with the most pleasant parts of the natural world. In this Arthur Rackham illustration for Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling, fairies swarm across the natural landscape in invisible multitudes, causing disease. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

Science educators in the Victorian era believed that the popularity of fairies could be used to lure young people into the study of the natural world. In works such as Fairy Know-A-Bit (1866) by Charlotte Tucker (known by the pen name A.L.O.E.), fairies guide children through the marvels of the natural world. Nature, in these works, contains greater wonders than fairies. Arabella Buckley, in her popular and widely reprinted book The Fairyland of Science (1879), teaches her young readers how to enter the fairyland of nature. There is only one condition: “Like the knight or peasant in the fairy tales, you must open your eyes” to the wonders of nature. Fairyland, she suggests, is all around us.

So I urge you: go fairy hunting at The Huntington. Start with the fairy door in the Rose Garden or another in the Children’s Garden and then wander on to other parts of the grounds. I can’t guarantee that you’ll see fairies. But you’ll certainly find fairyland here—if you open your eyes to look for it.

Cover of The Fairyland of Science (1879). The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

Laura Forsberg is adjunct professor of English at Concordia University Texas and a 2016–17 National Endowment of the Humanities Fellow at The Huntington.

Folded Wonders

Barn Owl, Opus 538 is one of 25 works by physicist and origami master Robert J. Lang. Photo by Kate Lain.

What happens when you take a single sheet of paper and apply the ancient principles of origami coupled with computer-generated folding patterns? In the hands of physicist and origami master Robert J. Lang, the result is a masterpiece of paper artistry.

Don’t miss examples of this talent in “FlORIlegium: Folded Transformations from the Natural World by Robert J. Lang,” an exhibition of 25 such wonders inspired by the flora and fauna of The Huntington. The exhibition is open on weekends only, through Jan. 29, 2017, in the Brody Botanical Center.

The astonishing nature of Lang’s art is evident even before you enter the exhibition gallery. Walk through the doors of the Botanical Center’s entry hall and look up. You’ll see five paper herons streaking across the ceiling. There’s also a stunning group of black crows in flight on the wall facing the stairwell.

Daffodil, Opus 687, by Robert J. Lang. Photo by Kate Lain.

Inside are more delights. An orchid, a barn owl, a cactus, a rattlesnake, and a rose all induce jaw-dropping double takes. It’s hard to believe they were achieved by folding a single square of paper—with no cutting or glue.

“My goal is to bring about a conflict in the viewer’s mind,” says Lang, “where the beliefs of impossibility and the knowledge of achievement are simultaneously present in equal measure.”

An engineer and distinguished alumnus of Caltech, Lang is one of the pioneers of the cross-disciplinary marriage of origami with mathematics. The principles of origami—folding a flat surface into a smaller area—can also help solve real-world problems. Lang has used origami folding techniques to devise ingenious scientific solutions ranging from tiny collapsible heart stents to expandable space telescopes.

Visitors to the exhibition will find a table outside the gallery for impromptu origami folding. Photo by Andrew Mitchell.

Just inside the gallery, find a case filled with crawly creatures—a tarantula, a scorpion, a praying mantis. They highlight the uncanny skill required for going from big to small. It’s hard to imagine how Lang achieved such anatomical detail without cutting the paper—though he did use a pair of tweezers to make the minute folds.

Look at the back of the gallery where you’ll find a cactus (Cactus, Opus 680) modeled on one from the Desert Garden. It, too, was fashioned from a single sheet of paper, a different color on each side. A diagram of Lang’s method hangs near it. Both are mesmerizing. A few feet away is the barn owl, one that Lang says posed perhaps his greatest challenge. Going from concept to realization occupied seven years.

“FlORIlegium” demonstrates the wonders of nature through intricate folding patterns that create line and form. The exhibition’s title is Latin for “a gathering of flowers” and refers to illustrated books of botanical art from the 17th and 18th centuries, the horticultural Age of Discovery. It’s also a play on words because part of the word, “ori,” means to fold in Japanese.

Cactus, Opus 680 was made from a single sheet of paper. Photo by Kate Lain.

“FlORIlegium: Folded Transformations from the Natural World by Robert J. Lang” is on view in the Brody Botanical Center Saturdays and Sundays only through Jan. 29, 2017.

Robert Lang will give a gallery talk about the exhibition on Jan. 28, 2017 at 2 p.m. in the Botanical Center. Free; no reservations required. A book signing will follow the program.

The exhibition and talk are part of a yearlong exploration of origami made possible through the support of Toshie and Frank Mosher.

Related content on Verso:
Into the Fold (April 4, 2016)

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications and marketing.

Knowing the Earth, Then and Now

Orbit Pavilion is on view on the Celebration Lawn (across from the Celebration Garden) through Feb. 27, 2017. Photo by Kate Lain.

We denizens of the 21st century have numerous ways to learn about our planet: seismographs, submersibles, and airborne snow observatories cover every continent. Some of the most remote Earth science instruments are the satellites that circle our globe to gather data about droughts, hurricanes, and tectonic shifts. NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Orbit Pavilion, currently on display at The Huntington, brings these far-away vessels back to Earth, but with a twist.

After wending our way into the shell-shaped structure, we are immersed in the sounds of a wave crashing, a frog croaking, and wind tangling with tree branches—each of which corresponds to the mission of one of NASA’s 19 Earth science satellites. While wrapped in the Orbit Pavilion’s aluminum-and-steel frame, we rediscover the world not with our eyes but with our ears.

In 1851, spaceships were mere fantasies and our delicate blue dot couldn’t be captured in a photograph. But John Wyld, a prolific map publisher and honorary geographer to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, wanted to give people the world—and demonstrate how much the British Empire knew about it. As London prepared for the Great Exhibition of the same year, Wyld constructed a “Colossal Globe” right in the middle of Leicester Square. This 60-foot orb stood in that very spot for 10 years. Gawkers did not admire the Alps or the Indian Ocean by gazing up at the monument. Instead, they were encouraged to journey inside to the center of the Earth and see how Wyld had turned its outsides in.

Image of John Wyld’s globe from Illustrated London News, vol. 18, Jan.–June, 1851; June 7, 1851, page 511. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Visitors entered the globe from a small opening in the Pacific Ocean. From there, they could choose to marvel at the world’s physical geography from four loggias. An image from an 1851 issue of the Illustrated London News—held in The Huntington’s collections—shows visitors climbing four interlocking staircases to view the globe’s enormous relief map. The highest peak of the Himalayas was a mere 1.5 inches tall, and the United States was 23.3 feet wide. Volcanoes and snow-capped mountains rose and fell; deserts and craters appeared as deep depressions on the map’s surface. All this topography was rendered in plaster, paint, wood, cotton wool, and small white crystals.

Victorians were curious about the natural world. Alongside progress reports about the building of Wyld’s globe, fashionable periodicals updated readers about new demonstrations that made the rotation of the Earth visible. They devoted precious column space to the minutes of The Royal Institution, the nation’s premier organization for public engagement with science. And many periodicals ran lavish advertisements for telescopes, microscopes, and chemistry textbooks. Literate women and men had grown so familiar with contemporary scientific research that Punch, London’s satirical magazine, could joke about competing theories concerning the composition of the Earth’s inner core: “Mr. Wyld has made a grand discovery. He has satisfactorily proved that the interior of the globe is not filled with gases, according to Agassiz; or with fire, according to Burnet; neither has he filled it, like Fourier, with water. No, Mr. Wyld has now shown us that the interior of the globe is occupied by immense strata of staircases.”

Illustration of John Wyld’s globe under construction from Illustrated London News, vol. 18, Jan–June, 1851; March 22, 1851, page 234. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Despite these controversies, Victorian geologists understood that the Earth was millions of years old. They knew that layers of rock and soil were the residue of different epochs. And they were beginning to learn that many creatures had come, gone, and evolved as the Earth aged.

Still, there was more to discover. No one had stepped foot on Antarctica. Few could have pictured that oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium comprised the Earth’s crust. And artificial satellites were a century away.

If Wyld’s globe gave Victorians a static world, frozen in time, NASA/JPL’s Orbit Pavilion helps us consider its changes in the here and now. As we ring in the New Year, this sounding nautilus provides us with an unusual opportunity to reflect on our planet—to hear its diverse wonders, and to consider how we learn about our home, now and in the years to come.

Related content on Verso:
Hearing NASA’s Earth Science Satellites (Nov. 15, 2016)

Melissa Lo is Dibner Assistant Curator of Science, Medicine, and Technology at The Huntington.

Some of Our Favorite Things

A collage of some of our Verso favorites from 2016.

As 2016 winds to a close, we invite you to take another look at a dozen stories plucked from the more than 80 we’ve published this past year on Verso.

We start off with a meditation on the symbolism of medieval lists by Martha Rust, a 2015–16 National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at The Huntington, accompanied by exquisite images from a Book of Hours in our collections. Read “Symbolism in Medieval Lists.”

One of our most popular posts marked the 10th anniversary of the death of science-fiction novelist Octavia E. Butler, whose papers reside here. We announced a project called “Radio Imagination,” sponsored by Clockshop, a Los Angeles–based arts organization that partnered with The Huntington and other local institutions to provide a yearlong series of events celebrating Butler’s life and work. Read “Celebrating Octavia Butler.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used this hand-colored lithograph—Abandonment of the whalers in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 1871—to announce a major archaeological discovery. To learn more, read “A Whale of a Discovery.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

We were pleased to report that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used a Huntington lithograph of ships trapped in ice to publicize a major archaeological discovery—the hulls of two out of 33 American whaling vessels that had sunk in the Arctic Ocean in the late 19th century. Read “A Whale of a Discovery.”

We told you about students from one of The Huntington’s partner schools, Esteban E. Torres High School in East Los Angeles. Students from their Engineering and Technology Academy enjoyed a class taught by Manan Arya, a Ph.D. candidate in aerospace engineering at Caltech, who helped them understand the scientific principles behind origami. Read “Into the Fold.”

In light of the drought in California, we provided you with a list of 10 water-wise plants to grow at home, selected by Scott Kleinrock, The Huntington’s landscape design and planning coordinator. He helped design the Frances and Sidney Brody California Garden. Read “Top-10 Water-Wise Plants.”

You can read about drought-tolerant plants, such as this beautiful Salvia clevelandii ‘Winnifred Gilman’, in “Top-10 Water-Wise Plants.” Photo by Kate Lain.

We shared stunning views of the newly installed permanent exhibition of Greene & Greene architecture and design in the Dorothy Collis Brown Wing of the Scott Galleries. Read “Greene & Greene in Context.”

Criss Cross Spelling Slips, a Victorian-era entertainment, served as the subject of a playful video that we posted. To provide context, we also included a Q&A with David Mihaly, The Huntington’s Jay T. Last Curator of Graphic Arts and Social History. Read “LOOK>> Spelling Slips.”

Chelsea Ngoc-Khuyen Trinh, who served as curatorial intern in the Art Collections at The Huntington before joining The Broad in Los Angeles, gave us an in-depth look at abstract artist Emerson Woelffer and his dynamic painting Yellow Poem. Read “A Pure Act of Painting.” 

You can explore the bold strokes of Emerson Woelffer’s Yellow Poem in “A Pure Act of Painting.” Yellow Poem, 1960, oil on canvas. Gift of Adam Mekler in honor of Ariel Gabriella Mekler and Daphne Lane Beneke. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Kate Lain.

We explored the themes of “Gardens, Art, and Commerce in Chinese Woodblock Prints,” a major international loan exhibition in the Boone Gallery. It’s still open through Jan. 9, 2017. Read “Chinese Poetry, Painting, and Gardens.”

Nicole Alvarado, a college intern in The Huntington’s conservation lab, offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how she carefully unrolled and flattened 20 panoramic photographs belonging to the Homer D. Crotty collection. Read “Unrolling a Long Past.”

The opening of the new Jonathan and Karin Fielding Wing of the Scott Galleries in October included an inaugural exhibition of more than 200 works from the Fieldings’ magnificent collection of 18th- and early 19th-century American paintings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, metal, needlework, and other decorative arts. Read “Becoming America.”

We published a Q&A with Dan Goods and David Delgado, visual strategists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about the Orbit Pavilion, a large aluminum structure in which visitors can hear sounds representing the movement of the International Space Station and 19 Earth satellites. Read “Hearing NASA’s Earth-Science Satellites.”

Check out our Q&A with the visual strategists behind NASA/JPL’s Orbit Pavilion in “Hearing NASA’s Earth-Science Satellites.” Photo by Dan Goods.

Thank you for reading our blog. We hope you’ll return in 2017 for more great stories about our astonishing library, art, and garden collections.

Kevin Durkin is editor of Verso and managing editor in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Recent Lectures: Nov. 22–Dec. 13, 2016

Home to gorgeous gardens, spectacular art, and stunning rare books and manuscripts, The Huntington also offers an impressive slate of lectures and conferences on topics and themes related to its collections. Below are audio recordings of four recent lectures.

Aerospace in Southern California (Dec. 13, 2016)
The history of the aerospace industry in Southern California and its intersections with contemporary culture are the focus of a panel discussion, presented in conjunction with the exhibition of NASA’s Orbit Pavilion (on view at The Huntington through Feb. 27, 2017). Panelists are Peter Westwick, aerospace historian; William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West; and Daniel Lewis, senior curator of the history of science and technology at The Huntington.


You Don’t Know Jack (Dec. 8, 2016)
In recognition of the centenary of Jack London’s death, The Huntington’s Sue Hodson, curator of literary manuscripts and former Jack London Foundation Woman of the Year, speaks about Jack London as a novelist, sailor, journalist, social activist, photographer, and adventurer, as well as about the importance of The Huntington’s 50,000-item Jack London collection.


Sex in the City (Dec. 7, 2016)
Margo Todd, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and the Fletcher Jones Foundation Distinguished Fellow, examines the campaign of the mostly lay judiciaries of the Calvinist Scottish kirk, or church, to impose a strict and highly invasive sexual discipline on their towns in the century following the Protestant Reformation. This talk is part of the Distinguished Fellow Lecture Series at The Huntington.


The Huang Family of Block Cutters: The Thread that Binds Late Ming Pictorial Woodblock Printmaking (Nov. 22, 2016)
David Barker, professor of printmaking at the China National Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, considers the important contributions made to Chinese pictorial printing by the famous Huang family of artisan block cutters. This lecture is presented in conjunction with the exhibition “Gardens, Art, and Commerce in Chinese Woodblock Prints,” on view in the Boone Gallery.

Find more audio recordings of Huntington lectures and conferences on SoundCloud and iTunes U.

Finding Harmony in Battle

Medieval manuscripts curator Vanessa Wilkie in Battle, England, standing with visitors from France dressed as Norman soldiers, at the commemoration of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Photo by Allan Millham.

I wrote my first serious history paper in 7th grade on the Battle of Hastings—the epic scene in 1066 when Duke William II of Normandy invaded England, defeating the Saxon King Harold. After the battle, England was ruled by a foreign king, court, and legal system.

Being a Hermione Granger type of student, I asked my mother to take me to the public library so I could do “real research”—no mere junior high textbook would do! For the first time in my young scholarly life, I read military histories, political histories, and books about the cultural clashes of Normans and Saxons.

I read about the victorious William, dubbed “the Conqueror,” and how he became the first Norman-French King of England and founded Battle Abbey on the site of the Battle of Hastings to celebrate his victory and pay respect to his fallen enemies. Hastings was the closest village, about seven miles away, so people started using that name to describe the battle. But, as Hastings referred to an established village, the town which grew up around the abbey was simply named Battle. It was in studying the events of 1066 that I first learned how one moment could impact the next, sending ripples through centuries.

A page from a volume of 13th and 14th century abstracts of charters, granting authorities in the County of Kent. Battle Abbey Collection, BA 29, ff. 144v–145. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Fast forward to 2016. As the William A. Moffett Curator of Medieval Manuscripts and British History at The Huntington, I am the curator for the Battle Abbey Collection. It’s my professional (and personal) honor to be its steward. Scholars from around the world come into our archives to delve into this material. Henry E. Huntington, the founder of our Library, purchased the collection in 1923, and it quickly became one of his most famous holdings. It’s composed of 3,000 manuscripts, representing the monastic archive for the abbey, including original deeds, court rolls, and account rolls.

In the medieval period, Battle Abbey was an important Benedictine abbey, controlling vast lands throughout the region. The monks were landlords, and the abbey became a seat of feudal power. The collection contains three cartularies (books of charters) from the 13th through the 15th centuries that include early copies of royal, papal, and episcopal charters.

In the 1530s, Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church, dissolved monasteries, and sold the abbey lands to the Browne family. The Webster family purchased the lands in the 18th century. Ultimately, in the 19th century, the Websters sold large portions of the medieval records from the abbey. The collection also includes some of the family papers for the Brownes and Websters, the other part of which resides in the East Sussex Record Office in the United Kingdom, placed on deposit there by descendants of the Webster family.

“Confirmation of Grant in Free Alms,” granting the abbot and convent of Battle control of certain lands, circa 1200. Battle Abbey Collection, BA 42/1503. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Huntington’s collection offers deep understanding of the feudal practices of a medieval abbey and paints a detailed picture of the environmental landscape of these fertile lands. It also provides detailed financial accounts and serves as the founding documentation of the village that grew up on the site of one of the most famous battles in Western history. Earlier this year, this same collection, which draws so many scholars to it, pulled me away from it.

I was invited to the village of Battle to represent The Huntington and this collection during the commemoration—on Oct. 14, 2016—of the 950th anniversary of The Battle of Hastings. The group that organized the festivities, led by Chairman Simon Alexander, called the event Concorde 1066, using the word “concorde” to refer to “an agreement between like-minded people with a willingness to come together for a common cause.”

The event was a lovely reminder that The Huntington’s collections are relevant beyond our own beautiful gardens or the remarkable books published by our readers. The Battle Abbey Collection contains the medieval records for lands upon which people live today. Battle is a thriving community, and the abbey is now home to a school. The Huntington’s collection tells the origin story for this place.

“Cartulary for the Properties, Tithes, and Liberties of Battle Abbey,” an early 13th century charter issued by the sacristan granting administrative powers in lands owned by the Battle Abbey. Battle Abbey Collection, BA 30, ff. 90v–91. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Concorde 1066 was a day of secular and religious services, parades, luncheons, receptions, and public displays. The guest list hinted at the wide range of people impacted by the Battle of Hastings: ambassadors to Great Britain from France and Denmark, the Home Secretary, Members of Parliament, the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, the High Sheriff, the Bishop of Chichester, the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers, and most importantly, the families who live in the village of Battle.

Battle Abbey sits majestically in the center of their town. They go to school there, attend local festivals and gatherings there, and enjoy tourism as a major part of their local economy. Battle residents are acutely aware of the historic significance of the site upon which their village sits. They are proud of this legacy and are generous hosts to the throngs of tourists who visit Battle every year.

At a time when Britons were debating their place within Europe, people from all walks of life gathered in this village to reflect on what it meant when the Normans conquered the Saxons, what the legacy of that is, and what it means for English-speaking people around the world. On that special day in October, political figures from Great Britain and the European continent, residents, and one American curator gathered to explore a shared past.

Schoolchildren in medieval dress parade in front of the gatehouse of the Battle Abbey. Photo by Paul Hollinghurst.

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