Mining the Archive of Octavia E. Butler

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 … Continue reading

Visualizing the Anatomy of the Eye

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 … Continue reading

Born and Raised in Hawai‘i

One of the greatest joys for historians doing archival research is the opportunity to become lost in someone else’s world. I had this experience during my recent fellowship at The Huntington as I delved into the papers of Nathaniel Bright Emerson (1839–1915), a physician, ethnologist, and author of several books … Continue reading

Evelyn Waugh as Reader, Writer, Collector

Early in his life, the celebrated British writer Evelyn Waugh (1903–1966) thought he’d make furniture for a living; he also studied art. While he ultimately abandoned those paths, his desire to make beautiful things never ceased. Loren and Frances Rothschild’s 2013 gift of their Evelyn Waugh collection made The Huntington … Continue reading

Transcription Challenge for Civil War Telegrams

In June 2016, The Huntington launched a crowdsourcing project called “Decoding the Civil War” to transcribe and decipher a collection of 15,922 U.S. Civil War telegrams between Abraham Lincoln, his Cabinet, and officers of the Union Army. This extraordinarily rare collection, acquired by The Huntington in 2012, is a near-complete … Continue reading

An Ingeniously Printed Book of Songs

Examining a real book up close can tell us things that a microfilmed or black-and-white online image of the object doesn’t show. Scholars often discover interesting information by inspecting a book’s watermarks, paper stocks, or bindings. A good example of this is a fascinating booklet dating from 1685 called A … Continue reading

Bill and Ned’s Excellent Adventures

I’ve been tracking two people in the archives of the Huntington Library whose careers reveal surprising parallels. One is William Wordsworth, the Romantic-era Lake District poet who made a career of dancing among daffodils and touring the rural reaches of late 18th-century England. The man became almost more important than … Continue reading