Ghosts, Friendly and Otherwise

While sometimes our stacks can certainly feel like they're haunted, the only ghosts we know live here are the ones in our books!  From Casper the Friendly Ghost to the Headless Horseman, our shelves are inhabited by a large variety of spirits.  We even have books claiming to be written by ghosts, such as the Ghost Epigrams of Oscar Wilde, and collections of ghost stories spanning the years.

Automatic writing allows a person to channel the supernatural to produce written words without consciously writing.  In this case, allowing the figure of Lazar to write pages worth of witty epigrams from the spirit of Oscar Wilde.

In this pamphlet, a speech is recorded from the ghost of Lord Haversham, who was so disturbed by some of the carrying-ons of the Parliment that he returned as a ghost after his death to give this speech to the House of Lords in 1710.

Even Holmes and Watson join the fray in the fight against evil spirits in these crossover comics that pit the famous consulting detective and his biographer against the opera ghost, or the Phantom of the Opera.

One of the more well-known ghosts in American literature is that of the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."  Also a terrifying figure in other European folktales, a common theme among all depictions is that, where this spirit shows up, death usually follows.

So if these books make you want to take up ghosthunting this October, you know who to call.  (Hint: it's us, Special Collections!)

The Griffin, King of the Beasts

The mighty griffin, with the head, wings, and talons of an eagle and the body of a lion, is said to represent power and majesty as the ruler of all creatures.  Which makes sense since the eagle is commonly cited as the king of birds and the lion as the king of beasts.  The griffin is quite common in tales and mythology throughout the ages, and is one of the more well-known fantastic beasts, like unicorns or dragons.

Griffins are incredibly strong, and are often used in heraldry and crests.  Griffins were also said to be exretemely wise, and, like dragons, had a tendency to seek out and hoard gold.  Adrienne Mayor suggests that the origin of the griffin myth comes from fossil findings of the pentaceratops (a dinosaur with a beaked face and four-legged body), whose bones would have looked much like a griffin's were supposed to, near known gold veins.

Lewis Carroll even includes a gryphon (pictured below) in his stories as a demanding guide to take Alice to the Mock Turtle.

To find the king of the beasts for yourself, all you need to do is pay a visit to us here at Special Collections – no digging in the mountains necessary!

home Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Dogs, Jackals, Wolves and Foxes, and an Adopt a Book program update

Dogs, Jackals, Wolves and Foxes, and an Adopt a Book program update

St. George Jackson Mivart was a well-known nineteenth-century English biologist. He served as Vice-President of the Zoological Society twice (1869 and 1882)and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his work On the Appendicular skeleton of the Primates. This work on animals in the canine family is filled with woodcuts and 45 hand-colored plates drawn from nature by J.G. Keulemans.  Mivart examines the anatomy of canids from the Mexican lap dog to the common wolf, and just about every variety in between.  

This book recently received conservation treatment through the Adopt a Book Program.  Before conservation, the book and plates were so fragile that they could not be scanned without risking further deterioration.  Thanks to conservator Jim Downey and donor Robin Wenneker, the book is now available to all in our reading room.  I'll be updating the Adopt a Book record to reflect the conservation work in a day or two, but in the meantime, I couldn't wait to share this sampling of the book's beautiful plates.

Mivart, St. George Jackson, 1827-1900. Dogs, jackals, wolves, and foxes : a monograph of the Canidæ by St. George Mivart ; with woodcuts, and 45 coloured plates drawn from nature by J.G. Keulemans and hand-coloured. London : R.H. Porter : Dulau, 1890. MERLIN catalog record

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home Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Special Collections at the Movies: Hercules

Special Collections at the Movies: Hercules

This week's post is by Shelby Wolfe, a Special Collections undergraduate assistant.

While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might not be the first person who comes to mind when pondering the classical humanities, his portrayal of Hercules in the most recent film version about the mythological demi-god might spark your desire to delve far back into classical mythology. If so, check out these Hercules-related materials at Special Collections.

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Hercules has entertained generations of adventure-loving readers and listeners for centuries. From pottery and poetry to compendium and comic book, illustrated depictions of the mythological hero are typically easy to identify – a large, muscular man often wielding a bulky club and donning a characteristic lionskin.

This plate in Andrew Tooke’s 1806 edition of The Pantheon details the hero’s attributes. Covered in a lionskin, the main image features Hercules resting his club on the ground. Two roundels above provide a closer inspection of the club and lionskin.

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Likewise, this illustration from Tooke’s 1844 Pantheon shows Hercules outfitted with his attributes. In addition, two roundel inserts depict Hercules in the midst of his Twelve Labors – slaying the Nemean Lion (the source of his lionskin attire) on the far left and his battle with the Lernaean Hydra on the far right.

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For a more modern depiction of the famed hero, take a closer look at this comic book from 1984. Hercules: Prince of Power features a monstrously muscular title character intent on saving the Marvel universe from rebel military forces in the year 2385.

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Whether it’s the 8th century BCE or 2385 CE, Hercules is sure to be flexing his muscles somewhere. 

home Resources and Services, Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books Wild Pilgrimage, Lynd Ward’s 1930s graphic novel

Wild Pilgrimage, Lynd Ward’s 1930s graphic novel

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These are selections from Wild Pilgrimage (1932), a wordless novel by Lynd Ward. In this novel, Ward manages two plot threads by color-coding them. The real world is represented in black-and-white woodcuts, while the main character’s inner life is depicted in red and white. Ward's books deal with the role of the individual in society, the identity of the artist, and the hardships and exploitation suffered by the working classes.  Ward worked primarily in wood engraving, which allowed for a refined line and detail. His style combines the emotive elements of Expressionism with the monumental, muscular figures of Art Deco. Ward varies the use of space and even the dimensions of his images, providing the reader with a changing experience as pages are turned.

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Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen is a librarian in the Special Collections and Rare Books department. She teaches information sessions in Special Collections, does reference work, and maintains the department's digital presences. Contact Kelli