Fourth of July Fireworks

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 … Continue reading

Medicine by Moonlight

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. … Continue reading

George Washington, a Letter, and a Runaway Slave

On August 26, 1852, Charles Sumner (1811–1874), the junior Senator from Massachusetts, took the floor of the United States Senate to deliver a major speech against slavery. For three hours, Sumner blasted slavery as a barbaric custom that was an affront to the law of God, the foundational principles of … Continue reading

The Auction Catalogs of Martin Folkes

During my time at The Huntington as a short-term fellow, I was researching and writing a biography of Martin Folkes (1690–1754). A protégé of Sir Isaac Newton’s, Folkes was an English antiquary, mathematician, numismatist (coin expert), and astronomer whose unique distinction was his simultaneous presidency of both the Royal Society … Continue reading

Ancestor in a Japanese Guest Book

When Akira Chiba, the consul general of Japan in Los Angeles, came to visit The Huntington, he had an opportunity to look at one of the Library’s recent acquisitions—a guest book that contains the signature of one of his illustrious forebears. Chiba’s great-grandfather was the esteemed physician and bacteriologist Shibasaburo … Continue reading

British Theater Censorship in the Georgian Era

I am convening a conference at The Huntington titled “The Censorship of British Theatre, 1737–1843,” which will take place on Jan. 12 and 13 in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall. Leading experts on 18th- and 19th-century theater will explore the implications of statutory theater censorship as Britain grappled with issues of … Continue reading