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BrokenLyre gets to Boston & Harvard libraries

PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:06 am
by BrokenLyre
Well, last week I got to the Boston Public Library. Without trying, my wife and I just walked into the Archives and Old Manuscripts section of the library. You could only get into the area by filling out forms. And you couldn't take anything with you. The staging room outside the actual Archive room was quite dark and they wouldn't let us in until we filled out forms. Darkest room I ever saw in a library!

They finally let us into the Archive Room (much brighter), after storing our stuff in a locker outside the Archive room, and I had to use the card catalog system to look up all their John Keats books. The catalog contained about 50 books, most of which were biographies and books about Keats. But they did have a few of his 3 main published books (the 1817 "Poems", the 1818 "Endymion", & the 1820 "Lamia" volumes).

Since I didn't have much time (bummer!), I filled out a form for the 1818 original Endymion. They would then proceed to find it and bring it to the desk. (All the volumes are stored in secret back rooms without access from the public).

I couldn't believe I was actually holding a copy of Endymion - signed by Keats himself! It was inscribed in pencil on the first page: "To J. H. Reynolds from your dear friend, JK." Keats had some markings in the book with pencil. I just sat and read parts of the book. Interestingly, some pages were still uncut (Book 4 Indian Maid poem etc....). Just leafing through the book was wonderful.

I also requested the 1820 volume. This was what I came to see. Inscribed "To P. B. Shelley. Signed "JK." There were some minor pencil markings. Just a wonderful book to read. My time was running out, so I looked through it. I can't tell you how excited I was holding this volume. I saw the same 1820 book on sale on the web for $45,000 US dollars, (and it wasn't signed by the author), so I won't be seeing it any time soon. (I mentioned that fact to the librarian in the Archives but she didn't care.)

I need to return someday and spend more time there. I think I could see everything I want to in about 5 hours.

The next day I went to Harvard University - the Houghton Library where the "Keats Room" is located. They also have the largest Keats collection in the world, I believe.

More on that later...it's late here. Thanks for your interest! I know you would have so enjoyed the time with me in the Boston library.

I'll fill you in on my Harvard trip in a few days. Wow. Fantastic!

Re: BrokenLyre gets to Boston & Harvard libraries

PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:34 pm
by Raphael
Since I didn't have much time (bummer!), I filled out a form for the 1818 original Endymion. They would then proceed to find it and bring it to the desk. (All the volumes are stored in secret back rooms without access from the public).

I couldn't believe I was actually holding a copy of Endymion - signed by Keats himself! It was inscribed in pencil on the first page: "To J. H. Reynolds from your dear friend, JK." Keats had some markings in the book with pencil. I just sat and read parts of the book. Interestingly, some pages were still uncut (Book 4 Indian Maid poem etc....). Just leafing through the book was wonderful.



Wow..they let you hold it and read through it?! Do they allot a time peroid for that (e.g 20 mins)? Did you have to wear protective gloves Broken Lyre? I've seen historians bring out precious antique books on TV and they have to put on protective gloves. What were the pencil markings John made?



I also requested the 1820 volume. This was what I came to see. Inscribed "To P. B. Shelley. Signed "JK." There were some minor pencil markings. Just a wonderful book to read. My time was running out, so I looked through it. I can't tell you how excited I was holding this volume. I saw the same 1820 book on sale on the web for $45,000 US dollars, (and it wasn't signed by the author), so I won't be seeing it any time soon. (I mentioned that fact to the librarian in the Archives but she didn't care.)



Wow again! What were the pencil markings in this one? I wish I had this librarian's job- I'd be so excited to go to work every day wouldn't you!


The next day I went to Harvard University - the Houghton Library where the "Keats Room" is located. They also have the largest Keats collection in the world, I believe.


Wish it was in Keats House.

More on that later...it's late here. Thanks for your interest! I know you would have so enjoyed the time with me in the Boston library.

I'll fill you in on my Harvard trip in a few days. Wow. Fantastic!


Looking forward to hearing more! Thanks for your account!

Re: BrokenLyre gets to Boston & Harvard libraries

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:44 am
by BrokenLyre
In the 1820 volume inscribed to Shelley, I saw some pencil markings on the Lamia Poem. It marked two lines and said, "Not good." There weren't too many markings, just a few like this. Some lines were underlined with no comment. All in pencil. The handwriting may be Shelley's - it didn't look like Keats, but I am no expert. You remember that Shelley died in the Mediterranean Sea in 1821 and he was identified by the copy of Keats's 1820 volume in his coat. Holding that copy was just so remarkable.

No they didn't make me wear gloves (though I expected to). Surprised by it, actually.

The time was shortened just due to my schedule. They said they would only get me 4 books or so, but I only had time for 2 books. My wife was also with me, and she doesn't have the interest I have. Plus we had to leave Boston before rush hour. I hope to go back and spend more time there, obviously. I would spend the day next time and bring paper and pencil into the room. They don't allow pens. But computers are allowed.

Re: BrokenLyre gets to Boston & Harvard libraries

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 3:15 am
by Cybele
Oh my gosh, Broken Lyre, am I ever jealous!
The 1820 volume signed and given to Shelley? Wow. (I imagine it's not the same volume that was found on his body after his death.)
The local university has a facsimile edition of many of the things in the Harvard collection. I remember how I pored over the book, wanting to see the real thing.
I'm very surprised that you didn't have to wear gloves! Do they allow you to take in your own paper to take notes, or do you have to use theirs? (Stupid question, I know. I'm just curious.)

Re: BrokenLyre gets to Boston & Harvard libraries

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 5:53 am
by BrokenLyre
Cybele,

Your question is a good one. They only let you take in pencils and your own paper. They don't supply any paper - but they do let you use pencils. You can take a computer in - but NO cameras.
No purses, etc... or other personal items are allowed - like cell phones. You have to store them in lockers outside the room (in a special room).

Many of the items in the Boston library I already have in my personal library - like Amy Lowell's biography, Sidney Colvin's bio, Lord Houghton's 1848 bio etc... I was just interested in the original volumes. I don't know if they have any original Keats letters - I didn't have the time to look.
I will next time. I know that Harvard does have the letters - but they are all *restricted* and nobody sees them anymore.

Re: BrokenLyre gets to Boston & Harvard libraries

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:38 pm
by Raphael
I am astonished that not only they let you hold the books but no gloves- it wouldn't be like that in Britain! Books like that would only be allowed to be touched by archives staff and historians (gloved)!
Maybe you can find out if it was PB Shelley who pencilled in the 1820 volume?