Fourth of July Fireworks

Advertising print for Excelsior fireworks by the Detwiller & Street Fireworks Manufacturing Co. Color lithograph, ca. 1885. Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The offerings are explosive: “Balloon Rockets, Devil Bombs, and Barking Dog Cap Bombs, Floating Stars changing colors, making a most beautiful display in the air,” reads a fireworks catalog entry. A promotional poster announces Sanderson & Lanergan, pyrotechnists to Boston, and promises a fireworks show, “[f]urnished as usual in the highest style of the art.”

Independence Day in the United States has been marked with a show of fireworks since the country’s first such celebration in 1777. The Huntington’s Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History provides a fascinating glimpse into how this Fourth of July tradition fueled a booming pyrotechnic industry that thrived through the 19th and early 20th centuries—an industry that used to its advantage the coinciding development of printing and color lithography.

Price list for Unexcelled Fireworks Company, 1877. (Click the image above to see a larger version of it.) Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Sifting through printed artifacts that contain trade catalogs, price lists, and advertising fliers, mainly from East Coast fireworks companies such as Excelsior and Unexcelled Fireworks, David Mihaly, The Huntington’s curator of graphic arts and social history, discusses how such day-to-day items as product posters that once hung in shop windows and promotional trade cards passed out on street corners provide insight into social and printing history and visual culture.

It’s curious that a circa 1880 lithographed trade card shows a hot-air balloon rising above a colorful sea of exploding fireworks. In fact, hot air balloons are a motif that makes appearances on a number of printed artifacts related to fireworks. But why?

Some early balloonists, says Mihaly, became pyrotechnicians as a way to bankroll their hot-air balloon endeavors. They would ignite fireworks while riding in their balloon gondolas and toss them overboard to the delight of audiences below. Such airborne displays were not just relegated to July 4—they included grand exhibitions and parties for the wealthy to celebrate special occasions.

Trade card for Unexcelled Fireworks Company. Color lithograph, ca. 1880. Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

What’s almost as striking as the combination of hot-air balloons and fireworks is the sheer number of combined font styles in some of the promotional literature about fireworks. One poster for celebrated pyrotechnist Isaac Edge, Jr., of New York used almost a dozen font styles, sometimes employing several different ones in a single sentence. “The posters would often bombard you with a variety of typefaces to grab your attention,” says Mihaly.

As he sorts through the collection, it’s interesting to see how much a late 19th-century Independence Day celebration resembles a modern one. An Excelsior Fireworks poster produced around 1885 depicts all the familiar components: an eagle, flags, crowds of revelers holding sparklers—all beneath a burst of fireworks.

Manuela Gomez Rhine is a freelance journalist based in Pasadena, California.

The New Fellows

There will be 141 long-term and short-term fellows pursuing research at The Huntington during the 2018–19 academic year. Photo by Deborah Miller.

As one of the world’s leading institutions for collections-based research, The Huntington has for almost a century provided essential support and a congenial environment for the conduct of scholarship in the humanities. We are committed not only to giving faculty and graduate students access to our extraordinary collections, but also to facilitating a sense of community among them.

This year, grants totaling nearly $1.7 million will support 20 long-term research fellows (in residence for the full academic year) and 121 short-term fellowships (for between one and five months) as well as 12 travel grants for study in the United Kingdom. (The full list of 2018–19 fellows is available on The Huntington’s website.) Notably, eight of the 11 long-term fellows who applied for awards through a highly competitive process are women. In total, approximately 54 percent of all our grantees this year are women (a ratio consistent with representation in the humanities in general).

One of these long-term fellows is Danielle Terrazas Williams, assistant professor of history at Oberlin College and a Barbara Thom Postdoctoral Fellow for 2018–19. Terrazas Williams focuses on the social and legal histories of African-descended people in 16th- and 17th-century Mexico. Her research interests include women’s history, governance, slavery, family, and notions of class and status.

Danielle Terrazas Williams, assistant professor of history at Oberlin College, is working on a book about the history of free African-descended women who accumulated capital in 17th-century Mexico. Photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones.

Terrazas Williams’s project challenges traditional narratives of racial hierarchies and gendered mobility by focusing on African-descended women’s experiences in Mexico during the little-studied period between 1580 and 1730. At The Huntington, she will be working with rare books and manuscripts to study the regional influence of various Catholic institutions and to examine the impact of Caribbean piracy on both quotidian experiences and colonial governance.

“My book project, The Capital of Free Women: Race, Status, and Economic Networks in Colonial Veracruz, illuminates the as-yet unknown history of how free African-descended women accumulated capital in 17th-century Mexico,” she explained in her project proposal. “In the 1600s, while African-descended people in Mexico still labored as slaves in sugar fields and urban centers, a new demographic began to emerge: free Black women of means. These women, sometimes only one generation removed from slavery, had slaves, owned significant parcels of land, and managed their own businesses. My project explores the lives of Black women across the economic spectrum, evaluates their sensibilities, and challenges our notions of race and caste in the colonial period.”

Among the 11 long-term fellows who went through the competitive peer-review process, two are Molina Fellows in the History of Medicine and Allied Science. One of the Molina Fellows is Seth LeJacq, a lecturing fellow in Duke University’s Thompson Writing Program. He is currently completing work on his first book project, Run Afoul: Sodomy, Masculinity, and the Body in the Sailing Royal Navy.

Seth LeJacq, a lecturing fellow in Duke University’s Thompson Writing Program, is writing a book that explores masculinity and sexuality among British sailors in the age of sail and focuses on the history of criminal trials for same-sex contact in the fleet from the late 17th century into the Victorian era. Photo courtesy of Duke University.

LeJacq’s work explores masculinity and sexuality among British sailors in the age of sail and focuses on the history of criminal trials for same-sex contact in the fleet from the late 17th century into the Victorian era. At The Huntington, LeJacq will investigate forensic medicine and sex-related crime in the premodern West, asking how knowledge of proscribed sexual activities was generated, how it circulated, and how it was used.

“I applied for this fellowship to work with the underexplored materials bearing on sexual crime and violence at The Huntington,” says LeJacq. “I will devote roughly half of my time to medical and related works bearing on medical knowledge and practice around sex, sexual crime, and legal medicine. These include the large group of pre-modern surgical texts in the collection, such as treatises by William Clowes, John Woodall, and Richard Wiseman. Wiseman’s popular Restoration surgical treatises, for example, discuss the physical symptoms of sexual crimes. I will also work closely with The Huntington’s considerable holdings of works on venereal diseases by such authors as Daniel Sennert, Jean Astruc, and John Hunter.”

Terrazas Williams and LeJacq were among 453 applicants who competed for fellowships this year. The success rate for long-term fellowship applicants was 13 percent; for short-term applicants, 39 percent. Of the short-term grantees, a large proportion (46 percent) are graduate students, for many of whom this visit to The Huntington will be the first fellowship of their career.

We welcome all the new fellows into the research program and look forward to learning more about our remarkable collections from their diverse perspectives.

Dr. Steve Hindle is Interim President and W. M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at The Huntington.

Artists Research and Reflect

Artist Carolina Caycedo looks through Flora de la Real Expedición Botánica del Nuevo Reyno de Granada, an account of an expedition led by José Mutis and sponsored by Charles III, Charles IV, and Ferdinand VII, kings of Spain. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Kate Lain.

In March 2018, The Huntington announced that it was partnering with East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) for the third year of The Huntington’s /five initiative, inviting noted Los Angeles artists Carolina Caycedo and Mario Ybarra Jr. to create new work inspired by The Huntington’s collections around the theme of Identity. The project will culminate in an exhibition that will be on view at The Huntington from Nov. 10, 2018 to Feb. 25, 2019. Carribean Fragoza, a freelance journalist who writes about art in Southern California, focuses in this post on the artists as they begin to reflect on their research at The Huntington.

Carolina Caycedo and Mario Ybarra Jr. begin their residencies at The Huntington by bringing distinct approaches to making new work inspired by the institution’s library, art, and garden collections. Whether instinctive or methodical, intellectual or personal, both artists find ways to enter The Huntington and connect with larger historical narratives.

The gorgeously manicured gardens at The Huntington tend to have an inspiring effect on visitors and, on a smog-free day, perform the breathtaking task of extending its scope to the San Gabriel Mountains. And yet, natural landscapes, whether they are national parks or botanical gardens, can be as curated as any built environment, such as an amusement park or a shopping center. More specifically, they construct an experience for their visitors—one that, at its core, is partly spectacle and illusion.

Carolina Caycedo looks at a photograph detail in an autochrome collection from the 1920s to 1930s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Kate Lain.

The spell of illusion is bound to be broken. Or at least interrupted, if you have an artist like Carolina Caycedo on the premises. In a dance performance she recently video recorded, Caycedo interrupted the seamless beauty of The Huntington’s gardens by haunting them with the dancing bodies of brown and black women. Choreographed with Marina Magalhães, the dancers make a ghostly presence that seems possessed, not by the wonders of Western Civilization that surround them, but by the spirit of the Afro-Caribbean water deity Oshun. The video will be part of a multimedia installation that Caycedo is developing and will also include drawings, as well as selected items from The Huntington’s collections.

The presence of these black and brown dancers immediately evokes what is purposefully omitted from such a landscape—labor, for it is the labor of immigrants, slaves, and their descendants that have built the backbone of this nation and its institutions. Caycedo does not turn away from these complicated histories. In fact, she digs into them deeply, with vigor. She is no stranger to the oftentimes tedious task of sifting through the minutia of archival documents. Early in her residency, she was fascinated by a collection of planning documents for the construction of dams along the Colorado River. “What I found interesting,” Caycedo says, “was the rhetoric that was being used to talk about the river as a menace, as something that needed to be controlled. It was like an early shock doctrine.”

Artist Mario Ybarra Jr. looks through a collection of 15th- and 16th-century Italian illuminated manuscripts. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Kate Lain.

Caycedo’s excavation of the relationship between restrained and commodified bodies of water and the bodies of marginalized people of color throughout the Americas is rooted deeply in much of her work. Whether it’s the Magdalena or Xingu rivers in South America or the Los Angeles and Colorado rivers in the western U.S., Caycedo approaches her projects with careful, pointed questions. For her /five residency, Caycedo applies both method and instinct, as she uncovers the internal designs of power that have come to shape the Southern California landscape and the lives of its inhabitants.

For Ybarra, the /five residency is an opportunity to find intersections between seemingly disparate worlds, using his own experiences as points of reference. His residency picks up the thread that he’s been following lately in his artistic practice—an earnest return to the daily practice of drawing.

So when, with the assistance of Huntington curators, Ybarra recently browsed through a volume of Renaissance illuminated documents, he was inspired by illustrations of recurring symbols, such as lions and columns that respectively represent justice and power. For Mario, this iconography resonated with images that can be found in contemporary “cholo” culture in Los Angeles. Like the Renaissance monks that performed the painstaking, years-long task of lettering and illustrating hand-made manuscripts, cholos pay comparably close attention to the details of their distinct Old English-inspired calligraphy and images of “firme” (attractive) feather-haired “hainas” (women), smile-now-cry-later comedy/tragedy masks, rosary beads, and tear drops, as well as an array of Aztec-inspired images.

Mario Ybarra Jr. looks at an illustration detail from a collection of 15th- and 16th-century Italian illuminated manuscripts. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Kate Lain.

“I’m just letting it all resonate with my own experiences,” says Ybarra. He adds that the Renaissance manuscripts, though many centuries old, seemed familiar. “They made me think a lot about my own life,” he says, and he began visualizing Renaissance symbology in his daily life. For example, he says, when he thinks of his wife and cofounder of Slanguage Studio, Karla Diaz, he pictures her flanked by their two German Shepard dogs as if they were lions. “Karla is like a symbol of justice in my life,” he shares.

Ybarra is also excited about the possibility of bringing The Huntington together more closely with underserved communities. “I would like to see more overlap between The Huntington and East Los Angeles,” says Ybarra. In many of his past projects, Ybarra has often found ways to connect young people of color to the cultural institutions with which he works.

This year’s partnership with the Vincent Price Art Museum, based at East Los Angeles Community College, promises to open new opportunities to bridge these communities. “The Vincent Price Art Museum is committed to presenting groundbreaking exhibitions and connecting with the community in creative ways to make a maximum impact,” says Pilar Tompkins Rivas, VPAM director. “This partnership does just that, expanding our fall programming in terms of concept, theme, and reach.”

Carribean Fragoza is a freelance journalist who writes about art in Southern California.

Henry Moore on Paper

Henry Moore, Five Reclining Figures, 1979, lithograph, 19 x 25 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. © The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved, DACS 2017 /

Can a piece of sculpture and a print on paper have the same effect? The differences between them seem clear. One is plastic; the other, graphic. One exists in three dimensions; the other, in only two. However, with an artist like Henry Moore (1898–1986), it is sometimes difficult to draw the line between the two mediums.

Moore is Britain’s best-known modernist sculptor. His monumental, biomorphic forms and figures that decorate public spaces and museum collections worldwide are easily recognized by most. But, as the exhibition Spirit and Essence, Line and Form: The Graphic Work of Henry Moore makes clear, Moore was also a master printmaker. The exhibition presents a small selection of works drawn from the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation’s recent gift of more than 330 prints by Moore—works that reveal how the artist often blurred the boundaries between his sculpted and printed work.

Henry Moore, Mother and Child, 1973, lithograph, 20 x 15 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. © The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved, DACS 2017 /

Moore’s graphic art presents many of the same themes and subjects found in his sculptures. One of these is the reclining figure, a motif repeated in the lithograph Five Reclining Figures (1979). Though these forms, often female, may recall universal themes, such as fertility or the roots of creation, the reclining figure also provided Moore with a way to experiment with form and shape, and to try out ideas. In Five Reclining Figures, the sculpture-like forms twist and bend around themselves. Some appear almost as hard and solid as boulders. Others are soft, living shapes. Has one opened her belly to reveal a baby inside?

Another recurring theme found in Moore’s work is the mother and child. He called it “one of my two or three obsessions.” As with his reclining figures, the mother and child offer the artist seemingly endless possibilities for variation. One example on view in the exhibition is a lithograph from 1973. Mother and Child, with its frontal, half-length format recalls the sober image of a Renaissance painting of the Virgin and Child or the stillness of a Byzantine icon. As if sculpted, the figures sit solid before us while the print’s writhing lines and flattened planes play with the possibilities of two dimensions.

Henry Moore, Mexican Mask, 1974, lithograph, 26 x 19 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. © The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved, DACS 2017 /

Moore often took actual sculptural works as inspiration for his prints. His image of a Mexican Mask (1974) recalls the kind of Mesoamerican sculpture that inspired him early in his career. With its solid, textured curves and receding voids, the image appears three-dimensional, as if we could reach out and touch a surface of carved stone rather than paper. In another print, a lithograph of one of Stonehenge’s great monoliths lends the prehistoric structure a sense of mystery. The composition, a close-up and only partial view, appears unable to capture the whole monument, enhancing the feeling of awe that Moore felt when, as a young man, he first visited the ancient site.

These prints and more will be on view in the Chandler Gallery of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art from June 16 through October 1.

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

Henry Moore, Stonehenge I, 1973, lithograph, 23 x 18 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Gift of Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. © The Henry Moore Foundation. All rights reserved, DACS 2017 /

In Wonderland

“An Evening Among the Roses in Wonderland” is The Huntington’s fifth annual garden party celebrating the contributions of LGBTQ artists, scholars, donors, and staff to the institution and the community. Photo by Jamie Pham.

The Huntington kicks off Pride Month on Friday, June 8, from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. with “An Evening Among the Roses” the fifth annual garden party celebrating the vital contributions of LGBTQ artists, scholars, donors, and staff to the institution—and to the community. The theme of this year’s event is “In Wonderland.”

Lewis Carroll’s “Wonderland” is a place where different is normal, and where wondrous, remarkable, and fabulous things happen every day. The event will celebrate differences and highlight the recent 150th anniversary of Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The Huntington is one of the few libraries that owns both the suppressed 1865 version and the official publication of 1866. The Huntington’s copy bears the autograph of George Dalziel, the engraver of the illustrations that will be represented throughout the Rose Garden during the event.

We have invited Natalie Russell, assistant curator of literary collections at The Huntington, to share with us her take on Lewis Carroll and items in our collections related to him and his work.

The Wonderland Postage Stamp Case features Alice holding a baby and a piglet respectively, alluding to a well-known Wonderland episode in which a baby changes into a pig. Carroll, Lewis, 1832–1898. The “Wonderland” postage-stamp-case. Oxford, Emberlin and son, [1908?]. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings— . . .”

—Lewis Carroll, from “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” in Through the Looking-glass, and What Alice Found There

Lewis Carroll’s works are some of the most quoted in the English language, trailing only the works of Shakespeare and the Bible. From his beloved story of a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole, to the poetic saga of the search for the mysterious Snark, his words and wisdom are part of our lexicon. The man behind the wonder is not as well known.

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

The splendid collector’s binding of this 1866 edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland designed by Sangorski & Sutcliffe features hearts of mother-of-pearl in the corners. Lewis Carroll, 1832–1898. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London: Macmillan and Co., 1866. First edition published in England. This is a 20th-century collector’s binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898) was a mathematician, a talented photographer, an Oxford don, and a cleric. He was about six feet tall, slim, deaf in one ear, and spoke with a stammer. He never married and never had children. Fond of puzzles, he adroitly transmuted his names, Charles Lutwidge, into Latin (Carolus Ludovicus) and back again to English (Carroll Lewis) to create his famous pen name: Lewis Carroll.

“Curiouser and curiouser!”
—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

The Huntington’s holdings of verse, photographs, letters, and first editions by Dodgson provide a window into the world of this curious man. They touch on his many interests, especially in mathematics and literature, but also in science, politics, and sports. One notable item is a rare copy of the infamously recalled first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as correspondence about the debacle. Printed in 1865, the edition was condemned by the author and illustrator for the “disgraceful” quality of the printing.

Letter from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson to Frances Power Cobbe (1822–1904), requesting assistance with the publication of an anti-vivisection essay, May 4, 1875. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898) letter to Frances Power Cobbe (1822–1904), May 4, 1875. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Huntington also has an “official” first edition, published in 1866. This copy was rebound in an exquisite collector’s binding by the firm Sangorksi & Sutcliffe. Established in 1901, Sangorski & Sutcliffe were known for their elaborate, jeweled bindings. The custom cover features dozens of tiny flowers, hearts of mother-of-pearl at the corners, and a crowned red heart, quartered like a heraldic shield, in the center. The back sports an elaborate monogram of the letters spelling “Alice.” The four suits of cards—hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs—decorate the spine.

“Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Dodgson was a prolific correspondent, sending and receiving nearly 100,000 letters in the last 37 years of his life. His private letters were usually written in purple ink. He was also a fierce anti-vivisection advocate. In one letter from the collections, Dodgson requests assistance from feminist author and reformer Frances Power Cobbe (1822–1904) on the publication of an anti-vivisection essay. Cobbe was a frequent contributor to numerous periodicals, fighting for women’s rights and the rights of animals.

The back cover of The Hunting of the Snark reads “It was a Boojum” referring to the fateful last line of the epic poem. Lewis Carroll, 1832–1898. The Hunting of the Snark: an agony, in eight fits. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876. First edition. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Another gem is Dodgson’s clever case for sorting and storing postage stamps of varying denominations. Dodgson invented many trifles and gadgets, as well as games involving logic and word play. The Wonderland Postage Stamp Case was designed to be stored with one’s letter- writing materials, and it came with a small pamphlet titled “Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter-writing.” It was both practical and marketable. The case and slipcover show Alice holding a baby and a piglet respectively, alluding to a well-known Wonderland episode in which a baby changes into a pig.

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-glass, and What Alice Found There

The literary Dodgson was known for his whimsy and his invented words. The back cover of the famously nonsensical The Hunting of the Snark references the fateful last line of the poem: “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.” Neither creature is depicted in the book, leaving their conjuring to the reader’s imagination. Both have found new identities, however, in the real world. The Snark became the name of Jack London’s round-the-world sailboat. The fanciful Boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) is a member of the ocotillo family from the Baja California peninsula. A specimen of it can be found in the The Huntington’s Desert Garden.

A specimen of the Boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) in the Desert Garden. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Wonderland is indeed a place where remarkable things happen every day. Even a Boojum tree would not seem out of place there.

Natalie Russell is assistant curator of literary collections at The Huntington

Medicine by Moonlight

This late 15th-century manuscript, an astrological and medical compilation, starts off with a detailed and complete calendar of the year, with saints’ feast days (“red letter days”) highlighted in red. Shown here is the month of January. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In The Huntington’s collections, there is a late 15th-century manuscript whose title in the Library catalog is “Astrological and Medical Compilation.” Many medieval manuscripts are “compiled” in the sense that they frequently collect heterogeneous materials—from different genres of writing, on different topics, and even in several different languages—within a single volume. Sometimes, we can detect a reason that these materials were brought together (a collection of devotional materials, for instance), but frequently we can’t.

At first glance, it might seem that this manuscript collects unrelated materials. It starts with a detailed and complete calendar of the year, with saints’ feast days (“red letter days”) highlighted in red. The calendar is followed by information on the moveable feasts, and then an astrological table. Elsewhere in the manuscript there is a world map, information on the occurrence of eclipses, and other astrological material on the movements of the planets and the prediction of astronomical events.

Different parts of the manuscript’s “zodiac man” (found on folio 12 verso) are labeled with the signs of the zodiac to which that part corresponds: Taurus for the neck, for example, and Virgo for the belly. This information was important in making decisions about medical treatment. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

On the other hand, this manuscript also features diagrams of the human body for therapeutic bloodletting, hundreds of medical recipes, drawings to help doctors diagnose disease from the appearance of urine, and excerpts from treatises that cite the great physicians Hippocrates and Galen. One set of texts clearly conforms to what we think of today as medicine, and the other set to astronomical and astrological knowledge: a different science.

However, from a medieval point of view, these materials are not as unrelated as they might seem. When I took my students to view this manuscript on a class visit, I asked them: why would you need a calendar in a medical manuscript? Prompted by our discussions in class on the nature of medieval medical knowledge, they answered correctly: to treat people in the Middle Ages, you had to understand the whole universe.

On this page (folio 17 recto), you find a world map, celestial and planetary diagrams, and diagrams of eclipses. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

This is a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. The reason that the material on ways of keeping track of time, and celestial movements, appears alongside medical advice in this manuscript is that these celestial movements affected how medieval physicians treated their patients. The human body was seen as a reflection of the universe, and changes in the celestial bodies were thought to bring about corresponding changes within the human body.

Furthermore, just as the regions of the earth could be divided along the 12 signs of the zodiac, with different signs affecting the characteristics of different regions, the body of a man could be divided in the same way. You can see this idea represented in the manuscript’s “zodiac man.” Different parts of his body are labeled with the signs of the zodiac to which that part corresponds: Leo to the heart, for example, and Virgo for the belly. This information was important in making decisions about treatment. When bloodletting, for instance, depending on the “sign” that was dominant, the physician would remove blood from a different site on the body.

A medical recipe for toothache appears on this page (folio 24 verso). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

As the recipes in this book demonstrate, to be a physician in the Middle Ages, you also needed to be proficient in other areas of specialized knowledge. You not only had to understand the movements of the heavens to know when and how to treat, how to perform phlebotomy, and when to do it. You also needed a good knowledge of botanical materials, which had to be not only accurately identified and located, but also sometimes needed to be harvested under specific astrological conditions to have the right effect in medical recipes. You had to know the specific properties of different stones, which were thought to have protective or healing properties; how to recognize and assess small variations in color and quality in urine samples, a noninvasive diagnostic method (which, in a different version, is still in use today); and you also needed to have a reserve of prayers, protective charms, and incantations. Finally, as this manuscript also demonstrates, you might need to be pretty good with languages, too. This particular manuscript is written in English, Latin, and French—and the languages sometimes switch on the same page.

Among the medical practices found in this medieval manuscript are such charms as the ones found on this page (folio 34 recto). These specific charms state that the person who wears or carries them will have victory in battle (the top one) and will not be afraid of fire (the bottom one). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Today many of the medical practices that we find in medieval texts would fall into the category of occult beliefs, and we might even call the charms and incantations “magic.” On the other hand, this textual collection, and other manuscripts like it, also demonstrate the vast amount of knowledge and care that went into these practices. Although we might not believe in their efficacy today, these methods required a high degree of expertise in a number of heterogeneous fields of scientific inquiry. Some of these fields—botany, especially—have continued to be essential to modern medical innovation. In planetary sciences, the detailed collection of observational data for astrological tables, like the ones in this manuscript, would soon be taken up by such early modern scientists as Brahe, Copernicus, and Kepler to revolutionize our understanding of our place among the stars. And indeed, sometimes even medieval prescriptions can still surprise us. Recently, researchers looking for novel approaches to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections found that a medieval recipe for wound salve was surprisingly effective.

On this page (folio 43 recto) is an illustration of a urine bottle. Medieval doctors would recognize and assess small variations in color and quality in urine samples—a noninvasive diagnostic method which, in a different version, is still in use today. However, in this particular manuscript, the bottles were never colored in to depict the urine samples. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

This specific manuscript was certainly the possession of a learned individual. Medieval medical practitioners, of course, ranged in educational level and in skill, and the text shouldn’t be understood as a blueprint for all medieval medical practice. But it’s an excellent demonstration of the depth and breadth of what constituted medical knowledge in the Middle Ages, a compendium of scientific mastery not only of the human body but of celestial bodies, natural philosophy, and the measurement of time.

If you’d like some medieval advice on when you might want to schedule your next doctor’s appointment, then you’ll be happy to learn that this manuscript has been completely digitized. You can see it in its entirety at the Huntington Digital Library.

Leah Klement is a Caltech-Huntington Humanities Collaborations postdoctoral instructor and 2016–18 long-term fellow at The Huntington.

Puyas in Bloom

Puya venusta. Photo by Deborah Miller.

A recent tour of Puya in the Desert Garden with The Huntington’s curator of the desert collections, John Trager, turned me from a Puya Ignoramus to a Puya Enthusiast.

Puya are drought-resistant, mainly South American terrestrial bromeliads (Bromeliaceae) that love arid sun. The Huntington has the best collection of these enigmatic plants anywhere in the country. So, unless you’re trekking through the Andes in Chile, Bolivia, Peru, or Ecuador, you won’t have a chance to see rare and arresting bromeliads—such as Puya alpestris and Puya chilensis—shoot spectacular, long-arching inflorescence blooms of blue-green, chartreuse, violet, red, and yellow three to five feet into the sky during their annual springtime bloom.

As an added bonus, Puya are well adapted to bird pollination because the flowers are full of nectar. During the bloom, birds perch happily on the plants’ lateral floral branches, which provide easy access to the nectar they love. Beware, however, as battalions of bees may be buzzing about.

Puya alpestris. Photo by Deborah Miller.

“The bees obviously are also attracted by the copious nectar, as are squirrels and other nectar thieves,” said Trager. “The birds actually achieve pollination, the others may not.”

As we toured the Desert Garden and Trager pointed out the many thriving Puya species, it was clear why these aren’t found in residential gardens (and why many of us are unfamiliar with them). The plant’s thick, gangly foliage spreads into densely packed, impenetrable colonies that take up a lot of space. Some have become enormous thickets the size of built-in swimming pools and have swallowed up their identifying species placard a long time ago.

“The placards, which were placed many decades ago, are buried somewhere in the middle; to find them, someone would have to push through the thicket completely covered in some kind of safety suit,” said Trager.

Puya coerulea var. violacea. Photo by Deborah Miller.

That only adds to the allure of these elusive plants. Puya often have virtually indistinguishable leaves, which makes it difficult for a novice to tell the difference between one variety and another and can even leave experts scratching their heads. Because The Huntington is the best place for Puya research in the country, experts and specialists come here to study plants in cultivation before going into the wild. (The Huntington’s excellent collection of mature Puya specimens were mainly collected decades ago when restrictions on botanical collecting were much more lenient.)

Earlier this decade, then graduate student and current Colorado College assistant professor Rachel Jabaily spent time studying Puya at The Huntington and identified many of the unknown specimens.

Many rare Puya species are located in the Desert Garden’s Heritage Walk section, which was closed after World War II due to staff cuts and largely lay dormant for several decades until it was renovated and reopened in 2013. During the renovation, Trager said, botanical staff discovered happily thriving early Puya collections. These included species born from seeds brought back from the South American Andes in the 1930s by T. Harper Goodspeed of the University of California (collected near Concepción, Chile, at the altitude of 100 meters, where it was found growing on dry slopes among shrubs and grasses), as well as Puya acquired later during explorations of Bolivia and Peru by Myron Kimnach, The Huntington’s director of botanical gardens from 1962 to 1986.

Puya coerulea var. violacea. Photo by Deborah Miller.

This formerly off-limits garden area was largely redesigned to accommodate these fantastic specimens, including the huge mass of Puya alpestris that dates to the 1940s and is situated right at the Heritage Walk entrance. This Puya’s towering flower spike displays brilliant aqua-blue flowers (and also goes by the name Sapphire Tower).

After my tour with John Trager, I realized Puya had been hiding in plain sight right before my eyes all along, waiting for me to relish their rarity and beauty.

Manuela Gomez Rhine is a freelance journalist based in Pasadena, California.

Out of the Woods

Asuka Hishiki, Black Pine Half-Cascade-Style Bonsai (2015-2017), Pinus nigra, Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama, Japan. Oil on paper, 28 ¼ x 36 ½ inches. © Asuka Hishiki. Courtesy of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the New York Botanical Garden.

Visitors to public gardens tend to view trees as background. Exotic blooms, shimmering ponds, and sweeping vistas of color draw the eye more readily. “Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens”—an exhibition of botanical illustrations opening May 19 in the Flora-Legium gallery located in The Huntington’s Brody Botanical Center—focuses on trees in all their glorious detail.

The subjects of the 43 illustrations, selected from more than 200 submissions, were cultivated in public gardens located on five continents. And one of the trees is at The Huntington.

“Like everything else in the garden, trees are part of our collections and objects of study,” notes Robert Hori, The Huntington’s Gardens Cultural Curator and Program Director.

Deborah Friedman, California Sycamore (2016), Platanus racemosa, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California. Watercolor and ink on paper, 24 x 19 inches. © Deborah Friedman. Courtesy of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the New York Botanical Garden.

Trees clean the air, moderate temperatures, provide habitat and food for animals, absorb storm water, and help prevent erosion. Threats to this vital resource—invasive pests, development, deforestation, climate change—led the New York Botanical Garden and the American Society of Botanical Artists to focus on trees for this third in a series of triennial exhibitions to tour the country.

Beyond environmental considerations, trees resonate with us on a spiritual level—as many “Out of the Woods” artists attest.

As a child riding her bicycle through a canyon, Deborah Friedman recalls watching red-tailed hawks soar above their nests in massive sycamore treetops. This cherished memory is one reason she chose to depict the California Sycamore—based on multiple specimens, including one located by the terrace of The Huntington’s Café 1919—for her entry in the juried show.

The ‘Fibonacci spirals’ of the Screw-Pine’s unusual fruits fascinated Margaret Best on her first view of them. She finalized her selection from the Bermuda Arboretum in Devonshire, Bermuda, when one of the fully ripe fruits, part of a mantelpiece decoration in a home where she was staying, exploded, disseminating its seeds and emitting a tropical aroma.

Margaret Best, Screw-Pine (2017), Pandanus utilis, Bermuda Arboretum, Devonshire, Bermuda. Watercolor on paper, 18 ½ x 14 ¼ inches. © Margaret Best. Courtesy of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the New York Botanical Garden.

Asuka Hishiki’s oil painting of a Black Pine Half-cascade Style Bonsai from the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Saitama, Japan, won the juried show’s Gold Medal. The pine’s aging dignity left her awestruck. “The thick layered trunk is bold and strong, and it tells you the long but calm life the tree has had.”

Botanical illustration demands scientific as well as artistic skills. Friedman rendered the California Sycamore not only for “Out of the Woods,” but also for a project toward her diploma from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Distance Learning Course.

Following exacting standards, she studied the tree in all seasons, rendered a full silhouette, bark and leaf details, branching architecture, and flower and fruit development. She made flower dissections, pressed and preserved plant parts, kept a sketchbook, and took hundreds of photographs to record her observations. (You can watch a video of Friedman discussing her process on YouTube.)

Two more entries represent Southern California as well: Mitsuko Schultz’ Sweet Gum from the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, and Olga Ryabtsova’s Roxburgh Fig from the San Diego Botanic Garden.

Esmée Winkel, Leiden’s 300-Year-Old Tulip Tree in Autumn (2016), Liriodendron tulipifera. Hortus Botanicus Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands. Watercolor on paper. © Esmée Winkel. Courtesy of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the New York Botanical Garden.

Our region is but one stop on the exhibition’s global journey. Arresting images abound, from the orchid-like flowers of the Noz-moscada Africana in the Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; to the slim cones of the 300-year-old Tulip Tree of Hortus Botanicus Leiden, The Netherlands; to the intricate tangle of roots and fibers of the Invasive Chinese Banyan Tree of Kowloon Park, Hong Kong, China. The artworks of “Out of the Woods”in watercolor, ink, oil, color pencil, and graphitetrace the cycle of life.

An adjunct exhibition, “Amazing Trees,” featuring works by the Botanical Artists’ Guild of Southern California (BAGSC)—a chapter of the American Society of Botanical Artists—will be on view adjacent to “Out of the Woods.”

Drop-in family activities centered around botanical art and facilitated by BAGSC will be offered in the Brody Botanical Center every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. through the run of the exhibition, May 19–Aug. 27, 2018.

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

“Frankenstein” Then and Now

Frontispiece from the 1831 third edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus. The engraving on the frontispiece, produced by William Chevalier from a drawing by the British artist Theodor von Holst (1810–1844), is the first known visualization of Victor Frankenstein and his creature attached to an edition of the novel itself. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus first appeared in print 200 hundred years ago, when the author was only 20. Since 1818, her boundary-breaking novel has become the most famous “Gothic” and Romantic-era text ever written, one of the founding works of science fiction, the inspiration for countless (if often “loose”) adaptations for the stage, film, and other media, and the source of a metaphor—the very name “Frankenstein”—that has come to designate several of the issues now raised by the modern sciences of artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, which it foresaw with astonishing prescience.

I am therefore delighted to join with my colleague, Distinguished Professor Anne K. Mellor of UCLA, in co-chairing the conference Frankenstein Then and Now, 1818–2018” in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall this coming Friday and Saturday, May 11–12. The conference celebrates the bicentennial of Frankenstein’s publication by bringing together major experts from around the world to discuss this widely influential “monster story” about the creation of artificial life.

Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus, London, printed for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818. The first edition of Frankenstein was published anonymously. Author Mary Shelley’s name first appeared on the second edition, published in 1823. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Huntington is an apt location for staging this conference, since its collections house original editions of the novel, holograph letters and manuscripts from the Shelley circle, and original documents in the history of science from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The first day of the conference, May 11, focuses on “Then”: what appears in, underlies, or surrounds the original Frankenstein in the 1810s. Professors Susan Wolfson of Princeton University and Gillen D’Arcy Wood of the University of Illinois will start the talks at this event by discussing the stages in the development of the novel’s manuscript and the physical conditions effecting the site of its conception, Lake Geneva in Switzerland, the region of the novel’s main setting. Professors Alan Bewell from the University of Toronto and Maisha Wester from Indiana University will then bring out long-hidden undercurrents in the novel that stem from, first, its relation to the new mobility of biological connections between bodies, places, and people; and, second, its allusions to non-Anglo races and the controversies over slavery and British imperialism that raged around them. The third session of the day will turn to the ways in which Shelley’s novel dialogues with the rapidly changing and conflicted sciences of its time in lectures offered by two of the world’s leading experts on the interfaces between Romantic literature and science: Professors Robert Mitchell of Duke University and Alan Richardson of Boston College.

Mary Shelley’s letter to Leigh and Marianne Hunt, April 6–8, 1818. Mary Shelley writes to her dear friends Leigh and Marianne Hunt from Italy, where she and the poet Percy Shelley would live until his death in 1822. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The conference’s second day, May 12, will move toward the “Now”: what has happened and is happening to the Frankenstein story and the issues it keeps raising in the 20th and 21st centuries. The day will begin with a screening of the astounding 2011 English National Theater stage adaptation of Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, directed by Danny Boyle, and written by the prolific British playwright Nick Dear. Mr. Dear himself will then join Professor Mellor and me, along with distinguished movie historian David J. Skal, to talk about the challenges in adapting the original novel, starting with the National Theater production but then ranging more widely across the still-expanding array of Frankenstein films. The conference will then close with an extraordinary session on the most recent innovations in genetic engineering and the ethical and legal issues they raise that recall Frankenstein directly. Joining us to confront these advances and debates will be Jennifer Doudna, the award-winning professor of biochemistry who directs the Genomic Institute at UC Berkeley and whose laboratory invented the revolutionary gene-editing process called CRISPR/Cas-9; and Henry T. Greely, the Edelman Professor of Law at Stanford University and the director of its Center for Law and the Biosciences.

Nobel Prize–winner David Baltimore, President Emeritus and the Milliken Professor of Biology at Caltech, will give a lecture the evening before the Frankenstein conference begins in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall on Thursday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. He will address what he calls “The Frankenstein Challenge” of today, the problem of controlling rapid and contentious developments in new biotechnology when there are so many different jurisdictions across our modern world. Photo courtesy of Caltech.

It turns out, in fact, that these legacies of Frankenstein are so current and unresolved in the sciences and ethics of our own moment that yet another very distinguished scholar has agreed to offer a pre-lecture, also in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, the evening before the conference begins.  He is David Baltimore, President Emeritus and the Milliken Professor of Biology at nearby Caltech, who will address what he calls “The Frankenstein Challenge” of today, the problem of controlling rapid and contentious developments in new biotechnology when there are so many different jurisdictions across our modern world.  (This event is free to the public, but you must reserve tickets online in advance.)

Professor Mellor and I deeply appreciate the support this conference has received from Caltech, the Keats-Shelley Association, the Byron Society of America, and from The Huntington itself, from its William French Smith Endowment to its extraordinary staff.

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

You can see a copy of the 1831 third edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus in the Library Exhibition Hall.

Jerrold E. Hogle is University Distinguished Professor in English at the University of Arizona and a former Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at The Huntington.

The Name of the Rose

‘Marilyn Monroe’ roses capture the freshness of a spring morning. Tom Carruth, The Huntington’s E.L. and Ruth B. Shannon Curator of the Rose Collections, named this creamy, long-limbed hybrid in 2002. Photo by Deborah Miller.

An old Hollywood crowd graces bed number 15 North in The Huntington’s Rose Garden. ‘Ronald Reagan’ and ‘Nancy Reagan’ naturally stand together, with ‘Ginger Rogers’ to one side, ‘Dick Clark’ on the other, and ‘Lucille Ball’ and ‘Cary Grant’ nearby.

Meanwhile, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and ‘John F. Kennedy’ share their own quiet spot in bed number 23.

Tom Carruth, The Huntington’s E.L. and Ruth B. Shannon Curator of the Rose Collections, has been having fun grouping and pairing rose cultivars in the Rose Garden according to their names. Another inspiration led to his planting ‘Sexy Rexy’, a pink floribunda, one bed away from ‘Hanky Panky’, a striped floribunda.

‘Hanky Panky’, a striped floribunda, attracts attention in bed number 9 of the Rose Garden. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Carruth’s playful approach is a way for both the public and garden volunteers to navigate the three-acre Rose Garden, which showcases more than 1,200 cultivars and just over 2,500 individual shrubs.

An award-winning rose hybridizer who, over his long career, has introduced 142 rose cultivars and named many of these, Carruth clearly understands the importance of a rose’s name—one that somehow suits the cultivar’s personality, color, and fragrance. As it typically takes eight to 10 years to research, hybridize, and introduce a rose, a little name-dropping may be in order for its long-term life. (Attributing the qualities of a person to a rose seems a sure way to boost a flower’s appeal.)

“You want the name of a rose to be something that people easily remember,” Carruth says. “When you go to the store to buy it, if you can’t remember what it’s called—it wasn’t named right.”

Tom Carruth planted the captivating ‘Sexy Rexy’, a pink floribunda, in bed number 10—just one bed away from ‘Hanky Panky’. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Similarly, gardeners may not buy and plant roses with forgettable or unfamiliar names, which can lead to their demise because rose producers stop growing them.

A great name can help a mediocre rose, Carruth said, such as the ‘John F. Kennedy’, which he deemed an average white rose in need of more vigor, marked by a stingy bloom.

The ‘Marilyn Monroe’ rose, however, fully lives up to her appellation. Named by Carruth in 2002, this creamy, long-limbed hybrid has a platinum-blonde hue. Carruth gained the rights to Monroe’s name, he says, because the original director of the late actress’s estate had recently passed and his wife was happy to provide licensing rights for a one-time fee.

The ‘Julia Child’ rose, a floribunda that’s as golden-yellow as butter and has a sweet licorice fragrance, is named after the famous Pasadena-born chef. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Indeed, the person for whom a rose is named, or their estate, must give authorization. In the case of first ladies, for example, neither Hillary Clinton nor Michelle Obama have given authorization; Barbara Bush has had a rose named for her, and Nancy Reagan has had three. Hard to believe (and Carruth does not know why), but a rose has never been named for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Carruth has named roses for a number of celebrities, including ‘Julie Newmar’ and ‘Barbra Streisand’ (a 2001 hybrid tearose with rich lavender blooms and a citrusy fragrance that she chose herself).

But he’s most proud of his achievement with the ‘Julia Child’ rose, a floribunda that’s as golden-yellow as butter and has a sweet licorice fragrance. “It’s one of the top five of my career,” says Carruth. The All-American Rose Selection winner has seen considerable international success because it grows in a variety of climates.

This tastefully named rose is called ‘Ketchup and Mustard’. Photo by Deborah Miller.

Carruth had asked the American, Pasadena-born chef several times if he could name a rose for her, but she always said no. It was by happenstance that one day, in 2004, she visited a mutual friend, a Santa Barbara rose grower, who had one of Carruth’s new varieties in her garden. “When Child saw that rose, she said, ‘if there ever was a rose for which I would want to be named, this is it,’ so we jumped on it,” said Carruth.

After talking with Carruth and gaining an understanding of how roses are named, I walked through the Rose Garden thinking about the historical context or zeitgeist that must have influenced each chosen appellation: why is a rose variety named ‘Chrysler Imperial’ (1952), ‘Jiminy Cricket’ (1954), ‘City of Belfast’ (1968), ‘Apache Tears’ (1971), ‘Betty Boop’ (1999), or ‘Ketchup and Mustard’ (2012)?

Shakespeare famously wrote, “a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet,” but would it be as much fun to contemplate?

Manuela Gomez Rhine is a freelance journalist based in Pasadena, California.