Solar Eclipse Observations

On August 21, 2017, millions of people across North America will experience a total solar eclipse as the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely covering the face of the sun for as long as several minutes. In anticipation of this rare event, we invited the distinguished astronomer Jay M. Pasachoff—Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College and a Reader at The Huntington—to explore the scientific phenomenon of the solar eclipse by looking at items from The Huntington’s collections.

Étienne Trouvelot’s chromolithograph of the 1878 total solar eclipse that he observed in Creston, Wyoming Territory. The August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse will pass through Wyoming again. Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The umbra of the total solar eclipse on August 21 will sweep across the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina, passing through parts of 14 states in a band roughly 65 miles wide. I will be in Oregon to view the event, the 34th total solar eclipse and 66th solar eclipse of my career. Experiencing the eerie darkness of a solar eclipse can be thrilling. They happen frequently—every 18 months somewhere in the world, though not usually so conveniently located—and they are often awe inspiring.

Scientists study the sun’s corona—the halo of hot gas around the sun held in place by its magnetic field—during a solar eclipse. Observers didn’t always comment on the corona. Hundreds of years ago, scientists focused primarily on the timing of an eclipse, noting its beginning, end, and duration. Perhaps the first scientist to comment on a corona during an eclipse was the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630). In his 1604 book Optics, which can be found in The Huntington’s collection, he expressed the (erroneous) belief that the corona was probably the atmosphere of the moon.

The title page of Ad Vitellionem paralipomena quibus astronomiae pars optica traditvr, 1604, by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630). In this book, better known as Kepler’s Optics, Kepler commented on the sun’s corona during a solar eclipse. He erroneously believed it to be the atmosphere of the moon. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In 1715, Edmund Halley (1656–1742), of comet fame, published a broadside showing the shadow of the moon crossing England, and in the text below asked people to send in observations—something that today we might call “citizen science.” He received enough data to refine his results by about 40 miles, and then he published another broadside with a corrected 1715 path and a prediction for the 1724 eclipse, whose path of totality proceeded from England to the European continent.

Later in the 18th century, Thomas Cowper, working in the same scientific tradition as Halley, produced illustrations and detailed observations of a solar eclipse in a unique manuscript now housed at The Huntington. Cowper’s drawings show a solar eclipse as observed in England, Nova Scotia, Pennsylvania, and Newfoundland on June 24, 1778. Cowper provided details of the appearance and timings of the eclipse based on information gathered from a network of solar observers located around the world.

Thomas Cowper’s calculations and drawings of a solar eclipse, as observed in England, Nova Scotia, Pennsylvania, and Newfoundland on June 24, 1778. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In 1878, there was an American eclipse expedition to view a solar eclipse in the western United States, as described in several new books, including American Eclipse by David Baron. French artist, astronomer, and amateur entomologist Étienne Trouvelot (1827–1895), fresh from accidentally releasing gypsy moths (which have been destroying millions of hardwood trees in the U.S. ever since), had decided to return to art. His set of chromolithographs of astronomical scenes included the 1878 total solar eclipse. We can tell that the eclipse took place near solar minimum, the period of least solar activity in the 11-year solar cycle, because in his detailed images, the large coronal streamers appear only near the equator, making it possible to see radial plumes near the poles. We expect a similar coronal configuration at this year’s solar eclipse, since we are again approaching solar minimum.

Solar eclipses in the U.S. have attracted many American astronomers to view them, even if solar observations were not their forte. This was the case for Edwin Hubble (1889–1953), who became famous for discovering that the spiral nebulae were galaxies outside the confines of our own and that distant galaxies were receding at a rate correlated with their distances—later interpreted as a sign that the universe is expanding. In 1923, the year before he discovered a Cepheid variable star in the Andromeda spiral nebula and used it to show that the nebula was actually a distant galaxy similar to our own, Hubble went on an expedition to Point Loma, California, to observe a solar eclipse. The Huntington has a photo of him seated near a telescope and puffing away on his trademark pipe.

U.S. astronomer Edwin Hubble on an expedition to Point Loma, California, to view the 1923 solar eclipse. Image courtesy of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science Collection at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In 1925, scientists from the Mt. Wilson Observatory traveled to Connecticut to view a total solar eclipse in winter, as captured in another photo from The Huntington’s collection. A hundred years ago, the equipment used to capture large solar images on film often included a telescope with long focal lengths. Today’s electronic detectors are a hundred times more sensitive and make more finely resolved images much more quickly.

This year’s total solar eclipse will no doubt extend our knowledge and appreciation of our closest star, and may also spur interest in objects such as those at The Huntington that document a fascination that has lasted for centuries.

Scientists with their large telescopic cameras at the Mt. Wilson Observatory’s expedition site in Connecticut for the 1925 solar eclipse. Photo by the U.S. astronomer Edison Pettit (1889–1962), after whom a crater on the moon and a crater on Mars have been named. Image courtesy of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science Collection at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

From Aug. 18 through Aug. 29, The Huntington will display, in the East Foyer of the Library’s Main Exhibition Hall, items related to eclipses from The Huntington’s holdings in the history of astronomy. 

Jay M. Pasachoff is Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College and a Reader at The Huntington. He is also the chair of the Working Group on Solar Eclipses of the International Astronomical Union and former chair of the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society, as well as the author of the Peterson Field Guide to the Stars and Planets.

Art Inspiring Art

In June 2017, The Huntington announced “COLLECTION/S: WCCW/five at The Huntington,” an exhibition that will be on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art from Nov. 18, 2017, through Feb. 12, 2018. Part of the second year of /five—The Huntington’s five-year contemporary arts initiative focused on creative collaborations—the exhibition will be a manifestation of The Huntington’s yearlong partnership with the Los Angeles-based Women’s Center for Creative Work (WCCW). The exhibition will feature new work by seven artists, selected by WCCW, who are currently conducting research in The Huntington’s library, art, and botanical collections. Catherine G. Wagley, a freelance journalist who writes about art and visual culture in Los Angeles, focuses in this post on the two artists delving into the Art Collections: Soyoung Shin and Juliana Wisdom.

Soyoung Shin photographs an 18th-century tapestry-covered fire screen in the Huntington Art Gallery as part of her research. Photo by Kate Lain.

“This was one of the first major purchases of art that Henry Huntington made at the request of his wife Arabella,” says Soyoung Shin. She is standing in front of the 19-foot wide tapestry The Bird Catchers in the Huntington Art Gallery. The French artist François Boucher designed it circa 1748 and craftspeople at the Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory in Northern France wove it over the course of two years. The ornate, playful scene shows women and men in silk outfits lounging amidst foliage as classical ruins loom behind them. Another tapestry from the same set by Boucher hangs on an opposite wall.

“This is the only intact set,” continues Shin, who studied computer science at the University of Washington and is interested in overlaps of craft and computing. She initially considered developing a digital algorithm for recording the craft of these objects to make them reproducible, but she soon realized how gargantuan a task this would be: some wefts, the visible threads that form the scene, are smaller than others; zigzaggy patterns produce gradients. “It’s not uniform,” she explains. Her algorithm project would likely have taken years, more time than she had.

Soyoung Shin reads about textiles in the Huntington Library. Photo by Kate Lain.

Instead, she designed her own tapestry with Boucher’s work as loose inspiration. “I’m interested in this lineage of how Jacquard turned into modern computing,” she says, citing the loom that Frenchman Joseph Jacquard designed in 1801. That loom used punch cards to store weaving instructions for the loom—and this practice formed the basis for modern computing.

Shin wanted to honor the role women have traditionally played as weavers. “But what’s hard is their history is very much pre-photo,” she says. She found few images of women at looms before Jacquard’s loom became standard.

She chose instead as her source image a 1946 photo of eight men standing in front of ENIAC, among the earliest general computers ever made. (The men had neglected to tell the team of women who programmed the computer about the photo-op.)

Soyoung Shin photographs a tapestry sample (ca. 1890) at The Huntington as part of her research. Photo by Kate Lain.

The tapestry depicting those men will be woven at a Belgian factory in Flanders. Then Shin will remove the men. “I’m going to do a lot of reweaving and unraveling,” she says, pointing out that the Boucher tapestries were unwoven following the French Revolution, to remove the symbol of the monarchy.

Once Shin removes the men, she will sew in five female figures from a second tapestry she designed. ENIAC programmers Betty Holberton and Jean Bartik will stand beside textile artist and scholar Anni Albers. Ada Lovelace, the English mathematician who proposed the first computer program in the mid-1800s, will be there; so will Grace Hopper, the computer pioneer who joined the Navy reserves during World War II.  Programming was a female craft early on. “Even up to the 1980s, computer science programs were 40 percent women,” Shin says. (By 2011, only 17 percent were women.) The border around her tapestries will mimic regal borders woven in the Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory. “It’s nice that it points back to the collection.”

Juliana Wisdom photographs Sévres porcelain at The Huntington as part of her research. Photo by Aric Allen.

Artist Juliana Wisdom, also in residence with /five, has herself gone deep into the history of design in Revolutionary-era France. Her research centers around The Huntington’s collection of Sèvres porcelain, all made between 1757 and the mid-1900s and often thanks to the skilled labor of largely uncredited women. She’s been poring over the Sèvres manufactory directories owned by The Huntington, looking for traces of these female workers. “Most women were paid through their husbands,” says Wisdom, noting that women frequently worked from home, carting the delicate objects back and forth from the factory. Printouts of some of The Huntington’s Sèvres vases and trays hang on walls and cabinet doors in Wisdom’s small Chinatown studio. Seven in-progress ceramic sculptures, all made in response to the Sèvres manufactory production, sit on a waist-high table.

“I want things to feel organic but still have this air of high refinement,” she says of the works she’s been making. Her sculpture takes on an almost meta role in relation to The Huntington’s collection, telling in small parts the story of the Sèvres manufactory and the culture surrounding it. “Each piece is dedicated to a different group of women,” she says of a trio of hand-built porcelain vessels. One representing the monarchy will have a china-painted portrait of Sèvres patron Marie Antoinette on its surface; another vessel portraying the nobility will feature a portrait of Madame Pompadour—politician, mistress of King Louis XV, and among the first patrons of the porcelain manufactory; Madame Geoffrin, who ran a famous salon, will be pictured on the vessel representing the bourgeoisie. “All three pieces also refer to the work of the women of the Sèvres factory,” she says. Each features the floral ornament, gilding, or patterning developed by female Sèvres workers.

Juliana Wisdom conducts research at The Huntington. Photo by Kate Lain.

Also in-progress is an unglazed ceramic wig with chalky white swirling curls embellished by jewelry. The wig stand beside it will, once finished, depict on one side the march that peasant women led to Versailles in protest of food shortages. The other side will feature a portrait of Genevieve Tallandier, the craftswoman who created the pink-and-white fond Tallandier pattern. She will be faceless. No one knows what she looked like, and still less is known about other female workers—often, directories list only their family names. Through her project, Wisdom wants to acknowledge such gaps in the history.

The largest vase on her studio table, which has dolphins for handles, will ultimately express—through paintings on its surface—class tensions between the monarchy and the lower bourgeoisie, the class the Sèvres manufactory employed. Elegant vertical bars run across an opening on its side. One bar is broken, making the vase’s fragility readily apparent.

“I haven’t really been concerned with things cracking or breaking,” she says. “It can have surface refinement and also be loose and immediate.”

Juliana Wisdom begins work on a porcelain maquette in her studio. Photo by Kate Lain.

Related content on Verso:
Engaging with the Collections (June 29, 2017)
Women Making Art (March 30, 2017)

The /five initiative is made possible by a generous gift from The Cheng Family Foundation. Additional funding for the second year of /five has been provided by a grant from the Pasadena Art Alliance.

Catherine G. Wagley is a freelance journalist who writes about art and visual culture in Los Angeles.


Recent Lectures: April 17–July 27, 2017

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 seven recent lectures or conversations.

Joy Ride (July 27, 2017)
Architect David Martin discusses his book Joy Ride: An Architect’s Journey to Mexico’s Ancient and Colonial Places. A journal of his travels filled with sketches, photographs, and observations, Joy Ride celebrates the timeless sophistication of Mexico’s architecture and offers fresh insights into the country’s history and culture.


Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (July 24, 2017)
Based on the acclaimed science fiction novel Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler, a new graphic adaptation by Damian Duffy and illustrator John Jennings gives fresh form to Butler’s powerful tale of slavery, time travel, and the inexorable pull of the past. Duffy and Jennings discuss the continuing relevance of Butler’s writing and how it has influenced their own work.


Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star: Now I See You As You Are (May 15, 2017)
Jennifer van Saders, a Carnegie-Princeton Postdoctoral Fellow based at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, discusses how the technique of astroseismology has revolutionized scientists’ view of the internal workings of stars. This talk is part of the Carnegie Astronomy Lecture Series at The Huntington.


Hilary Mantel: “I Met a Man Who Wasn’t There” (May 11, 2017)
Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell was described by an eminent historian as “not biographable.” Faced with an intractable puzzle, can a novelist do better? Hilary Mantel, two-time Booker Prize–winning author of Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, describes her 10-year effort to pin her compelling and elusive subject to the page. Mantel is currently working on the third book in the trilogy. Her papers are archived at The Huntington. This talk is part of the Ridge Lecture Series at The Huntington.


The Art of Farming: How a Farmer Sees the Future (May 7, 2017)
David Mas Masumoto, organic farmer and acclaimed author of Epitaph for a Peach and Harvest Son, is joined by his wife, Marcy Masumoto, for a lively talk about life on their Central California farm. Through stories that offer a personal perspective on growing organic crops, the Masumotos share their reflections on the vision required of artisan farmers in today’s food world. This talk is part of the Brody Lecture Series at The Huntington.


Exoplanet Genetics (May 1, 2017)
Johanna Teske holds the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellowship, a four-year joint position between the Carnegie Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., and the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California. In this lecture, she highlights new discoveries about exoplanets—planets orbiting stars other than our Sun—including how their composition is “inherited” from their host star. This talk is part of the Carnegie Astronomy Lecture Series at The Huntington.


Simulating the Universe, One Galaxy at a Time (April 17, 2017)
Andrew Wetzel is a Caltech-Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellow, jointly at Caltech and Carnegie Observatories, and assistant professor of physics at UC Davis. In this lecture, he discusses how theoretical astrophysics is now revealing how galaxies are formed, using the world’s most powerful supercomputers to simulate this complex process. This talk is part of the Carnegie Astronomy Lecture Series at The Huntington.

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

Ascending Old Baldy

A sketch by Olive Percival (1869–1945) made during her 1893 camping trip to hike Mount San Antonio, or “Old Baldy.” Whimsically labeled “Camp of the Laughing Water,” Percival’s tent scene might have been located at Stoddard’s Camp or nearby in the San Antonio Canyon. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Summer is a time for enjoying the great outdoors, and what better way than by hiking and camping? That’s as true today as it was more than a century ago, when one remarkable woman embarked on a 10-day camping trip in the San Gabriel Mountains with a group of friends. She documented the experience in a delightful diary and sketchbook, which are contained in the Olive Percival archive, part of which resides at The Huntington.

Percival (1869–1945) was a Pasadena author, artist, and bibliophile who amassed a collection of more than 10,000 books in her lifetime. Lured to Southern California by its mild weather at the age of 18, Percival worked first in a department store and later as the first female underwriter employed by an insurance agency. Independent and adventurous, she would later travel to Mexico, design and cultivate her own gardens, and host fanciful parties for the literati of the Arroyo Seco.

Percival’s drawing of a rustic stone and pipe camp stove, 1893. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The goal of her 1893 camping trip was to hike Mount San Antonio, or “Old Baldy,” the highest peak in the San Gabriel range, reaching 10,064 feet. Filled with intimate details of the trip through San Antonio Canyon to the summit, the diary and sketchbook reveal Percival’s wit and delight in life.

Percival’s sketches document whimsical details of camp: the wooden chair she describes as “after Louis XV,” a rustic stone and pipe stove, a ham hanging in a tree, and the banjo music that served as evening entertainment. In pencil and watercolor, she depicts the trail with its burro riders and pack mules. She also captures the humor of the trip, for instance in a sketch titled “Come, oh! Come with me!” showing a determined camper pulling a recalcitrant mule.

Percival’s illustration of a determined camper pulling a recalcitrant mule, 1893. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Recalling another humorous moment in her diary, she writes: “At noon we rested under some gigantic pines where we met five ‘young huntsman’—quite like a page from a story, with their sunburn, and rifles, and eating with their hunting hunger. They told us of a spring half a mile further on, our last chance to get water on the way up. We found it but the dog found it first and had a bath.”

Percival recounts the difficult trail of the ascent and a short-lived panic when she became separated from her party:

“Up early and started for the peak. A hard, hard trail. Wasted two hours on the wrong trail. No snow on the peak—been gone about six weeks. But a very strong, cold wind was blowing. I stopped a few minutes to pick up some stones for paper-weight souvenirs and then went on to overtake the others. I took the wrong trail and was lost and scared to death for nearly an hour. Finally started back for the top so they could find me more easily, and then, far away, I saw a man (Mr. Porter). He was going to the top to look for me.”

Percival made numerous sketches of the creatures she encountered along the hiking trail, including this colorful butterfly. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Percival makes numerous sketches of the wildlife she encounters, such as an exquisite, colorful butterfly and an invented bear she “did not meet” while separated from the rest of the group.

Her drawing of a miner’s camp recalls the gold mining history of the area. The Hocumac Mining Company enjoyed moderate success near Baldy Notch in the late 19th century. Percival mentions meeting Robert Brewster Stanton, the chief engineer of the mine from 1893–1894, and his family. Stanton was known as one of the first people to lead an excursion through the Grand Canyon by boat, becoming a minor celebrity. The Hocumac Mine would ultimately fail due to water-supply issues.

Percival’s drawing of a miner’s camp recalls the gold mining history of the area. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Percival’s sketches and prose offer a glimpse into an ephemeral world. In 1900, the San Antonio Water Company acquired the Hocumac Mine Company lands and discouraged public use. The company would later recant and open their own resort, Camp Baldy, but the rugged camps of the 1890s never returned.

Today we can drive most of the way up “Old Baldy.” But only the hardy and sure-footed can reach the final peak, as Olive Percival did more than a century ago, recording her trip in lively words and vivid images.

Percival’s most detailed view of a campsite during her 1893 trip to Old Baldy. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Related content on Verso:
The Worlds of Olive Percival (Jan. 27, 2012)

Natalie Russell is The Huntington’s assistant curator of literary collections.

A Different Kind of Beat Poet

“Mr. Woodhouse the Poetical Cobler,” mounted print in an extra-illustrated copy of James Granger’s Biographical History of England (London, 1769). James Woodhouse (1735–1820), the British poet and shoemaker, did not sit for this popular portrait and hated it, later stating that it “never mark’d his character at all.” He also was annoyed at his characterization as a “cobbler,” a far inferior trade to making shoes. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Most of us have little experience of being thrown out of a garden. When I’ve been found wandering through The Huntington’s orange groves (usually off-limits to visitors), at worst I’m asked by one of the polite staff to ramble somewhere less wild.

Such was not the case for the British poet James Woodhouse (1735–1820) when, in 1765, he was caught walking in the Leasowes, the famed English landscape garden designed by his friend and mentor William Shenstone (1714–1763). Shenstone had died only two years before, and the new owner—a nouveau riche button-maker with the appropriately Dickensian name of Captain Turnpenny—mistook Woodhouse for a trespasser and furiously attacked him.

My Ph.D. dissertation is on British laboring-class poets—the workers of the past who, against the odds, managed to be published. Woodhouse is an especially interesting example. Scholars suppose that he occupied two separate identities: the submissive, sycophantic poet of the 1760s who sought a leg-up from his patrons; and the radical, rebellious poet of the 1790s whose criticism knew no bounds. Exploring the letters of Woodhouse’s patrons in The Huntington’s collections, I was keen to find out more about the younger poet whom, I felt, might have been misunderstood.

Engraving of the seat of William Shenstone (1714–1763) within the 144-acre Leasowes, as it was before the house was demolished and rebuilt in 1776. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

James Woodhouse lived in the small village of Rowley, in Staffordshire, just two miles away from the Leasowes. The eldest son of a yeoman farmer, he had attended a local free school until he was eight, and a few years later was apprenticed as a shoemaker.

Shoemaking had advantages for someone with a taste for literature. Shoemakers did their work indoors, individually or in small groups, often occupying their minds by singing, sharing news and stories, and in some cases writing poems. As the advertisement to Woodhouse’s first book would later explain, Woodhouse composed verses while working, jotting down the lines between tasks.

Woodhouse’s penchant for poetry began attracting notice in 1759 when Shenstone closed the Leasowes to the public due to acts of vandalism. In response, Woodhouse wrote an elegy to Shenstone that showed Woodhouse’s keen appreciation of the landscape—with a nod to Shenstone’s genius, of course.

The beginning of Woodhouse’s first elegy to Shenstone in the 1764 Poems. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A poet himself, Shenstone was impressed. He offered Woodhouse free use of the Leasowes and his library. He invited Woodhouse for dinner and on walks, sent his poems to other literati, and introduced him to his publishers. Shenstone’s influence lasted long after his sudden death in 1763. Woodhouse was crestfallen by this misfortune, writing several poems in memory of him.

Woodhouse’s Poems on Sundry Occasions was published the following year, and he became an instant celebrity. Upon his visit to London, he was fêted by polite society and gained important new patrons, including Lord George Lyttelton, owner of the nearby estate of Hagley, and his friend Elizabeth Montagu, the social reformer and founder of the Blue Stocking Society, a female-led intellectual salon.

The Huntington’s collection of Elizabeth Montagu’s correspondence—totaling some 7,000 items—includes 14 letters sent to her by Woodhouse. I was also interested in letters between Montagu and her friends, as these mentioned him often. One letter from Lyttelton to Montagu struck me, not least because it had the words “Poet Woodhouse beaten!” scrawled across the top.

The note at the top this letter from George Lyttelton to Elizabeth Montagu was added by one of the early editors of Montagu’s correspondence. Although Lyttelton tried to forge some kind of reconciliation, Woodhouse never forgave Turnpenny for the assault and called him a “fierce Despot” in his 28,000-line poetic autobiography, The Life and Lucubrations of Crispinus Scriblerus, written throughout the 1790s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The letter describes Woodhouse’s encounter with Turnpenny, shortly after Turnpenny had moved into the Leasowes. Mistaking Woodhouse and his companions for trespassers, Turnpenny went after Woodhouse’s younger brother. Woodhouse stepped in to defend his kin and, things escalating, Turnpenny called for his servants. One heck of a fight must have followed, because Woodhouse, who was six and a half feet tall, went home to his wife with “a bloody Nose, a swelld Face, and a black Eye.”

Lord Lyttelton’s colorful report spans four pages and shows just how much he cared for Woodhouse and was shocked by his mishap. It chronicles the kind of violence that rustics like Woodhouse faced in a transforming British landscape, while revealing Woodhouse’s surprisingly obstinate, even rebellious nature. Lyttelton, for instance, couldn’t understand why Woodhouse didn’t introduce himself to Turnpenny or attempt in any way to make himself known during the encounter.

A plan of the Leasowes showing points of interest, accompanying Joseph Spence’s “The Round of Mr Shenstone’s Paradise.” The fight likely took place on one of the wooded walks visitors were meant to follow. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

This letter is important because it describes just one of many instances in which Woodhouse was confronting the strict social hierarchy of the 18th century. Looking closer, I discovered that Woodhouse had adopted a fake persona to challenge his snooty reception as a “mechanic” poet in newspapers. He also wrote with significant freedom to his patrons, asserting “the natural, tho’ not political, Equality of Mankind.” By seeing the private rebellions behind Woodhouse’s 1760s poetry, I was better able to understand the poetry itself.

Besides a new understanding of Woodhouse, what I took away from my time at The Huntington was a less author-focused approach to epistolary correspondence. While it’s easy to overlook the scandals, stories, and pieces of gossip scattered through letters, once gathered together, these fragments can tell us much about the people of the past.

In his 1766 expanded second edition of poems, Woodhouse makes explicit his occupation as a “Journeyman Shoemaker” (not a cobbler) and also writes his own preface. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Adam Bridgen, doctoral student of English at the University of Oxford, is the Leeds Hoban Linacre-Huntington Exchange Fellow for 2017. His full article, “Patronage, Punch-Ups, and Polite Correspondence: The Radical Background of James Woodhouse’s Early Poetry,” is published in the Huntington Library Quarterly.

Flourishing Lily Ponds

The Lily Ponds are looking better than ever after undergoing a major three-and-a-half-week cleaning last fall. Photo by Kate Lain.

The Lily Ponds, among the first garden features developed at The Huntington, are at their seasonal peak now. William Hertrich, Henry Huntington’s first superintendent of the gardens, created the five descending ponds from natural springs on the grounds in 1904. The two large and three small ponds surrounded by a grassy meadow replaced an unsightly gully in the gardens’ southeast corner. Hertrich first planted lotuses and water lilies in the Ponds in 1905 and, later, lined the shores with bamboo groves and added landmark conifer and redwood trees nearby.

The Ponds look better than ever after undergoing a major three-and-a-half-week cleaning last fall. Algae and muck had turned the water blackish brown. Boxes that had held the water lilies for many years were in poor shape and could no longer keep the plants from spreading unchecked.

William Hertrich, Henry E. Huntington’s first superintendent of the gardens, created the five descending ponds from natural springs on the grounds in 1904. This view, taken by an unidentified photographer around 1906, shows the original design.

Today, an eye-popping swath of pink and white water lilies (Nymphaea ‘Arc-en-Ciel’, N‘Marliacea Chromatella’, N. ‘Fire Opal’, N‘Laydekeri’, and N‘Virginalis’) and lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), accented by the tall orange flowers of the canna lilies (Canna ‘Chocolate Inferno’), greets visitors. Bobbing purple and white heads of newly planted Lilies of the Nile (Agapanthus) border the ponds’ pathways. Clumping bamboo (predominantly Bambusa beecheyana), replacing dense running bamboo (Phyllostachys flexuosa), opens up the shoreline profile. A pool at the top of the ponds’ chain, revealed by soil clearance, offers a tiny oasis of swamp iris (Iris pseudacorus), daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Elves’), and papyrus (Cyperus papyrus).

To make this spectacle possible, the renewal project team—led by Shadi Shihab, curator of Floristic Gardens—pumped water out of the ponds, distributing it on the adjacent grass, then rented a vacuum truck to remove the pond muck and washed the pond bottoms with hoses. They cut back the water lily overgrowth, replaced the old lily boxes, filled the new boxes with young plants, and added the canna lilies. The workers also repaired the mini-waterfalls connecting the ponds, restoring the cement that directs the flow of water.

Two of the small ponds as they look today. Photo by Kate Lain.

When the job was done, well water replenished the ponds. Two pumps continue to recycle the water. Botanical staff dose the water lilies with fertilizer tablets annually, and resident fish, water fowl, and algaecide help maintain a healthy pond ecosystem and keep the water clear.

One of the Ponds’ major attractions, the koi, lived in large containers during the cleaning. Children will be especially happy to know that 40 to 50 additional koi joined them once the ponds were refilled. A member of the staff feeds the fish on a regular schedule, using a food formulated for their needs. (Tossing bread, crackers, or junk food into the ponds for koi or ducks disturbs the ponds’ ecosystem, so please heed the “Do Not Feed the Fish” signs!)

This large pond provides a cool and shady place to escape the heat of summer. Photo by Kate Lain.

Fittingly, a memorial plaque honoring William Hertrich, located near the large pond presided over by the statue of St. Francis of Assisi, reminds visitors of the ponds’ origins and Hertrich’s key role in The Huntington’s development. Moved in 2013 from an inconspicuous spot in the adjacent Jungle Garden, the memorial hails Hertrich for his creative genius and inspiration. The St. Francis of Assisi bronze recalls the historical value of the ponds as well: Clara Huntington, Henry’s daughter, sculpted it in the mid 1920s.

The Lily Ponds beckon visitors to sprawl on the lawn to watch the koi dart through the water and the mallards tending their young. No matter what the draw, this treasured site is in prime condition.

Koi swimming in one of the large Lily Ponds. Photo by Kate Lain.

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

New Chief Curator’s Take on American Art

Eunice Hooper’s Sampler, ca. 1790. Silk on linen, 21 x 21 ¼ in. Collection of Jonathan and Karin Fielding.

You might skip right past it. In a room of the Jonathan and Karin Fielding Wing dominated by kaleidoscopic starbursts and spirals on huge early American quilts, The Huntington’s new Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art, Chad Alligood, stops in front of a small, dark piece of needlework. In other rooms of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries are major works by standard-bearers of the American art canon—from John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) to Andy Warhol (1928–1987)—yet Alligood effervesces over little Eunice Hooper’s own masterwork, or homework assignment, as it were—it’s her sampler made in 1790, when she was nine years old.

Alligood says this sampler is more than the typical lesson in Bible verses or the alphabet. “Look at the thickness, the density of the stiches in the foliage. Look how she’s repeating patterns here and there. This is evidence of an art being passed from a master to a very talented young pupil,” he says. “Here she depicts a modest home with an everyday woman in the window, then Athena in a horse-drawn chariot! Frolicking lambs. She’s imagining this bounteous, strange world outside her doorstep.”

Zenobia in Chains, 1859, a monumental sculpture by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (1830–1908). Photo by Kate Lain.

The fact that he took me to the sampler on a recent tour of the Scott galleries shouldn’t have been surprising. He says he’s always been invested in “offering a window onto stories not adequately told,” like those of women artists and artists of color who have often been overlooked by museums. He stopped in front of Zenobia in Chains, a monumental sculpture by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (1830–1908). The towering marble, created in 1859 by an artist whose abilities were suspect because of her gender, depicts the grace and dignity of a third-century queen of Palmyra (near present-day Syria) as a prisoner of the Roman Empire. “I’m drawn to this work because it uses the ancient Greek and Roman artistic ideals that informed much of 19th-century American art to address issues that are pertinent today.”

Alligood also lingered in front of the powerful 1944 painting Soldier by Charles White (1918–1979), who drew from experience for the subject. When drafted for military service, White assumed he would be contributing to the fight against the Nazi regime in Europe, but instead found his African-American troop had been demeaned with an assignment to dig Mississippi River mud on the home front. “This is a rare, momentous work to have in the collection—by an artist who is finally getting his due.” He points to White’s virtuosic use of tempera paint, with multiple layers of tiny strokes, and to the soldier’s hands that look as though they are sculpted of stone.

Charles White (1918–1979), Soldier, 1944, tempera on masonite, 30 x 25 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © 1944 The Charles White Archives.

Why such interest in marginalized subjects? Maybe it’s because Alligood didn’t go to art museums as a child. He still remembers his first visit to a museum in his first year of college and recalls that, when you’re not used to them, “museums have a kind-of omniscient, disembodied museum voice” that wasn’t speaking to him.

Of The Huntington, Alligood says, “This wondrous place draws some 800,000 visitors a year. We can make quite an impact with such a high-quality collection—which is really without peer in the Western half of the country. People might quibble with that, but when you go from gallery to gallery and see how it’s presented, there’s great possibility.” How do we entice visitors to spend a little more time indoors and connect with the American art galleries? The new chief curator says, “We have to relate it to who they are. I always curate for my 10-year-old self.”

Chad Alligood, the new Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art at The Huntington. Photo by Stephen Ironside. © Ironside Photography.

You can read more about Eunice Hooper’s sampler online in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Huntington Frontiers.

You can read more about Charles White’s works online in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Huntington Frontiers.

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

Engaging with the Collections

For her /five project, kerrie welsh (now Kiki Loveday) is researching materials related to the Greek lyric poet Sappho in the Huntington Library collections. Photo by Kate Lain.

Earlier this week, The Huntington announced “COLLECTION/S: WCCW/five at The Huntington,” an exhibition that will be on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art from Nov. 18, 2017, through Feb. 12, 2018.

Part of the second year of /five—The Huntington’s five-year contemporary arts initiative focused on creative collaboration—the exhibition will be a manifestation of The Huntington’s yearlong partnership with the Los Angeles-based Women’s Center for Creative Work (WCCW). Featuring new work by seven artists who are currently conducting research in The Huntington’s library, art, and botanical collections, the exhibition will include an installation of paintings, sculpture, textiles, video, writings, and other new works, as well as performances, talks, and tours by the artists—all of whom were selected in collaboration with WCCW.

The projects that will be featured in “COLLECTION/S: WCCW/five at The Huntington” are described below.

Projects in the Library Collections

Jheanelle Garriques reads 18th-century letters in the Elizabeth Montagu archive at The Huntington as part of her research. Photo by Kate Lain.

Jheanelle Garriques
Garriques’ project for /five—called “Storytelling, Solidarity, and the Blue Stockings Society”—uses The Huntington’s Elizabeth Montagu archive as inspiration for a writing salon and a mixed-media spoken word performance. Montagu (1718–1800) was a founder of the Blue Stockings Society, a British movement that encouraged intellectualism among women through literary discussions. “I’m trying to draw a thread through the experiences of these female-identified people in 18th-century Britain and the femmes that I’m working with,” she says. In the fall exhibition, Garriques will juxtapose a handful of letters from the Montagu collection with new writing produced by eight participants in a multi-week salon Garriques has assembled as part of Naked Narratives, a narrative therapy project she founded in 2014. Her performance piece will involve the participants and dance choreographed by Rissi Zimmermann.

kerrie welsh (now Kiki Loveday) looks through an 1888 copy of Alphonse Daudet’s Sappho: Parisian manners. Photo by Kate Lain.

kerrie welsh (now Kiki Loveday)
welsh’s project, “What You Love,” collects LGBT letters, testimonies, and diaries to create an archive of contemporary love stories. Inspired by The Huntington’s rare book and theater holdings related to the ancient Greek poet Sappho, the project investigates the story of Olga Nethersole (1863–1951), a controversial and popular British actress who portrayed Sappho on stages across Europe and the United States. It will include correspondence with the local LGBT community and collected ephemera evidencing LGBT lives and loves, highlighting the historical vulnerability of these kinds of materials to destruction, due to secrecy, shame, and fear.


Projects in the Art Collections

Soyoung Shin takes notes on The Huntington’s historic carpet Astrology in the Huntington Art Gallery as part of her research. Photo by Kate Lain.

Soyoung Shin
Shin’s project for /five, “Picture Elements,” is drawn from the word “pixel,” an abbreviation of “picture element.” Centered on The Huntington’s historic carpet Astrology (on view in the Huntington Art Gallery’s large library), one of 93 carpets commissioned around 1665 by King Louis XIV to line the Grand Gallery of the Louvre, Shin’s project investigates the anonymity of women who engaged in the creation of textiles without receiving credit, in the same way that contemporary women rarely receive credit for their roles in emerging technologies. “Picture Elements” will take the form of textiles (including fragments of a Savonnerie carpet currently in storage), software, a book, and lectures.

Juliana Wisdom photographs Sèvres porcelain at The Huntington as part of her research. Photo by Aric Allen.

Juliana Wisdom
Wisdom is developing new work in response to The Huntington’s 18th-century French porcelain collection. Emulating the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory’s techniques with both traditional and new materials, she will create sculptures that seek to broaden the historical narrative of the Sèvres Manufactory by including the often-anonymous women who served as both makers and benefactors of Sèvres.


Projects in the Botanical Collections

Olivia Chumacero sits alongside Sarita Dougherty as Dougherty works on a painting at The Huntington’s Ranch Garden. Photo by Kate Lain.

Olivia Chumacero and Sarita Dougherty
Chumacero and Dougherty are working on a joint project focused on indigenous practices in the natural world, ecology, and aesthetics. Chumacero’s contribution will be a video, “When Light Married Water,” in which the relationship of light and water gives birth to native California flora in both the manicured and the less cultivated areas of The Huntington’s grounds. Dougherty’s contribution, “Domestic Flora Familiars,” consists of four paintings relating to plants on The Huntington’s grounds along with a printed cloth screen, of the type used in home décor, inspired by Chumacero’s video.

Zya S. Levy takes notes on a Golden Barrel Cactus at The Huntington as part of her research. Photo by Kate Lain.

Zya S. Levy
Levy’s project, titled “Green–Gold,” explores the Desert Garden collection at The Huntington to draw links between early plant collectors, botanical origins, migration stories, a sense of place, and the future of biological diversity. “Green–Gold” will consist of a visual catalog of cacti diversity at The Huntington, a short audio collage, and sculpture, as well as a series of off-site urban plant tours.

The /five initiative is made possible by a generous gift from The Cheng Family Foundation. Additional funding for the second year of /five has been provided by a grant from the Pasadena Art Alliance.

You can learn more about the initiative and individual projects on the /five website. Find artist bios here.

Related content on Verso:
Women Making Art (March 30, 2017)

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

Mining the Archive of Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler, ca. 1988, © Miriam Berkley. For alternative images and questions regarding usage, please contact photographer Miriam Berkley.

The papers of award-winning science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) came to The Huntington in 2008. By the time the collection had been processed and cataloged, more than 40 scholars had already asked for access. Today, the Octavia E. Butler Collection is one of the top two most actively researched archives at The Huntington.

To better understand the insights gained by scholars using the archives, we are convening a daylong academic conference to explore the legacy of a writer whose relevance and influence continue to rapidly expand.

Titled “Octavia E. Butler Studies: Convergence of an Expanding Field,” the conference highlights the evolving, transdisciplinary work that scholars have done based on Butler’s archives. It will also foster conversations to examine how Butler’s life, writing, and research nurture a deeper understanding of the past, present, and possible futures.

Shelley Streeby, one of the conference presenters, has been studying Butler’s research on the environment and climate change, which Butler initiated in 1965. This image is of the outside of an envelope Butler used to file away the articles she collected on climate and the environment beginning in the 1980s. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Copyright Estate of Octavia E. Butler. Click here to enlarge.

The Octavia E. Butler Collection contains more than 8,000 items, including her unpublished book drafts, diaries, research, notes, letters, and other ephemera. Our conference provides the first opportunity for those Butler experts who earliest delved into The Huntington’s archive to share and discuss their discoveries.

The conference showcases academics addressing a range of topics drawn from the Butler Collection. We are pleased to include Shelley Streeby, faculty director of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop and professor of Literature and Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego, who will expand on chapters written for her forthcoming book, Imagining the Future of Climate Change: World-Making through Science Fiction and Activism. We’ll also hear from Gerry Canavan, assistant professor of American Literature at Marquette University, who is the first to use the Butler archive to develop a biography, Octavia E. Butler. Canavan will discuss fragments of Butler’s unpublished novel Parable of the Trickster, the intended third installment in her Parable series.

Aimee Bahng, assistant professor of English at Pomona College, will discuss Butler’s research on the behaviors of slime molds, a topic explored in the Xenogenesis trilogy. Cassandra Jones, assistant professor of African American Studies and director of the American Studies program at University of South Carolina Upstate, will present on Butler’s character Anyanwu, the shapeshifter, in the Patternist novels. Jenny Terry, senior lecturer in the Department of English Studies at Durham University, will talk about art inspired by Butler’s novels. And Sami Schalk, assistant professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at University of Wisconsin, Madison, will explore Butler’s writings as disability literature.

Butler in Machu Picchu, unidentified photographer, 1985. Butler traveled to Peru to conduct research for her Xenogenesis/Lilith’s Brood trilogy, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic rain forest and in and alien space vessel. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

This long-planned conference comes on the heels of several other significant Butler programs over the last year or so. A Huntington Library exhibition, “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories,” the first major exhibition to explore Butler’s life, runs through Aug. 7, 2017. The local arts non-profit Clockshop ran a yearlong series of events celebrating Butler called “Radio Imagination,” with several partners including ourselves and The Huntington. These events provided opportunities for Butler scholars, artists, students, readers, and fans to come together to discuss and celebrate the author’s work and legacy. We continue that tradition as co-editors of a forthcoming special issue on Butler in Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, a peer-reviewed journal published by the State University of New York.

We hope that 50 years from now, in 2067, people will look back on this conference as the beginning of an explosive golden age in the field of Butler Studies.

Related content on Verso:
Telling Their Stories (May 17, 2017)
Telling Her Stories (April 6, 2017)
Instagram Takeover with Lynell George (Oct. 5, 2016)
Seeing to It (Aug. 15, 2016)
Mentoring in the Afterlife (June 10, 2016)
Celebrating Octavia Butler (Jan. 27, 2016)
Writing Herself In (June 22, 2015)

You can read more about the conference program and registration on The Huntington’s website. UPDATE (6/26/17): You can listen to audio from the conference on SoundCloud and iTunes U.

Ayana Jamieson is the founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network and the awardee of the Helen Bing Fellowship at The Huntington, where she will continue her scholarship on Butler’s life. She is also an interdisciplinary lecturer for State University New York, Empire State College.

Moya Bailey is the digital alchemist of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network and assistant professor of Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University.

Visualizing the Anatomy of the Eye

Vesalius’s first cross-sectional image of the eye, from Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body), 1543. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Kate Lain.

As a historian of science, I’m fascinated with pictures that help make sense of past scientific ideas and practices. The Huntington’s vast collection of rare 16th-century science books document how intellectuals of the day perceived the eye and the process of sight. Chief among these works is the groundbreaking anatomy book De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) by the Flemish-born anatomist and physician Andreas Vesalius (1514–64).

De fabrica was printed in 1543 in Basel, Switzerland, and, with its incredible woodcut images based on the burgeoning practice of human dissection, it marked a major development in the history of anatomy. Readers might be familiar with the book’s famous muscle men or the memento mori of a skeleton contemplating a skull. Although less well known, Vesalius’s detailed diagrams of the eye were among the first in a printed anatomical treatise. His cross-sectional diagram would become the model for almost all other visual representations of the eye in anatomy and optics until the mid-17th century.

Vesalius tells us that he drew a similar diagram for his students prior to performing an ocular dissection. A real eye has many fluid, transparent parts that are difficult to grasp (literally and conceptually) in a dissection, so Vesalius used a visual aid to bring order to the messiness of the anatomized eye—he was telling his students and his readers what they were supposed to see. But, by visualizing the eye before his students (or readers) would see an anatomized eye itself, what sort of order was he imposing?

Diagram of the cosmos, from Gregor Reisch, Margarita philosophica (Pearl of Wisdom), 1504. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The eye Vesalius depicts in De fabrica was very much a product of the image-making culture of his age. Vesalius writes that the eye can be compared to the cosmos—an earth-centered cosmos, that is. The year 1543 was revolutionary for science. Nicolaus Copernicus, in the same year, published De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), which had the earth revolving around the sun, rather than the reverse. Copernicus’s heliocentrism, however, took hold slowly. Geocentrism was the order of the day.

So Vesalius addresses readers who would be familiar with images of an earth-centered cosmos, for instance those found in the most popular university textbook in the first half of the 16th century, Gregor Reisch’s liberal arts textbook Margarita philosophica (Pearl of Wisdom), also in The Huntington’s collections. Vesalius draws upon this scheme and puts the lens at the center of the eye. Many implications from this concept of the cosmos are transferred over: for example, just as the universe was constructed according to a divine plan, so too was the eye.

Vesalius did not invent a new theory of vision. Most people at the time believed that the purpose of the ocular lens was not to refract rays of light and color but to receive and capture them. The basic idea was that, if what we see are the colors of things, then what we see with must be uncolored—that is to say, it must be transparent. This theory of perception, hailing back to Aristotle, ruled out the retina: it was too dark, too rough, too colored. The central place of the lens in Vesalius’s diagram showcases its central place in the visual theory of the time.

Detail from Vesalius’s idealized depiction of the shapes and sizes of the parts of the eye, and how they fit together. From Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body), 1543. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Kate Lain.

Vesalius also provides a “deconstructed” image, which might be thought of as assembly instructions for Nature herself. At the top-left, you can see a lentil-shaped part of the eye—in fact, the English word lens comes from the Latin word for lentil. Reading from top-left to bottom-right, one sees the eye being constructed piece by piece. Notice that Vesalius rotates the parts to show them from different angles, helping us to generate a three-dimensional picture in our minds. Once we have built up a mental model, we can then scan from bottom-right to top-left to understand how to dissect the eye, instructions for which Vesalius gives in a subsequent chapter. Keep in mind that these are images of fluid humors and delicate membranes—what he shows is clearly not what one would actually see in a dissection.

Vesalius’s images were the first, in print, to try to accurately depict the relative sizes, shapes, and positions of the eye and its parts. But, paradoxically, to be faithful to anatomy, he had to present an ideal: he showed how to construct or dissect an eye in one’s mind. These and other images in the magnificent collection of books at The Huntington are windows into the world—the microcosm and the macrocosm—of the 16th century.

Detail from Vesalius’s idealized depiction of the shapes and sizes of the parts of the eye. From Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body), 1543. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Kate Lain.

Tawrin Baker is the 2016–17 Dibner Fellow in the History of Science and Technology at The Huntington. He was a Mellon Postdoctoral Associate in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh for 2015–16 and will be a postdoctoral fellow in the Visual Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania for 2017–18.