One Librarian’s Objects of the Month

By Hannah Elder, Assistant Reference Librarian for Rights & Reproductions 

Let’s face it: the MHS has a lot of cool stuff. As the assistant reference librarian for rights and reproductions, I get to see some of that stuff as I pull it for researchers in the reading room and further afield. When something catches my eye, I get out my phone and take a photo of it to share with friends, family, and my fellow librarians. As the year comes to a close, I was reflecting on some of those photos and wanted to share them with you. Here is a compilation of some of the wonderful collection items I saw this year.

January: Binney family mourning bracelet

A gold bracelet, with a large covered octagon at its center, engraved with script and curlicues. It rests in a box on top of an MHS callslip.

This bracelet was made ca. 1847 to commemorate Amos Binney and his mother, Hannah, who both died on 18 February 1847, but on opposite sides of the Atlantic. The central chamber holds a miniature portrait of Amos and a lock of hair that may have been Hannah’s.

February: Tide chart for Boston from the 3 June 1763 edition of the Boston Evening-Post

A printed chart displaying the times for high tide, sun rise, and sunset from Monday-Sunday. Surrounded by other newspaper text, including advertisements and a printer's statement.

Having grown up on the coast, I was delighted to see this tide chart for a week in the summer of 1763. It’s also interesting to note the times for sunrise and sunset. Since we as a society did not yet practice daylight savings, the times for both sunrise and sunset are much earlier than we are used to.

March: Baby’s first photograph in Henry P. Binney’s baby book

A black and white photo of a sleeping baby, encircled by printed sketches of cherubs. Manuscript notes indicate that the photo was taken 19 January 1911.

I found this baby book while including Binney’s 1922 diary from my March blog post and was immediately enchanted by it. Other pages included descriptions of baby’s first outing, clippings from his first haircut, and other photos of Henry’s first years of life. The love of his parents is evident on every page.

April: inventory of chairs from Elizabeth R. Child’s estate

A manuscript list of items, written in pencil, within a lined notebook. The list is headed by the underlined word "Chairs"

I found this list while working on a reproduction order and was struck by the number of chairs in a single house. I think my favorite is the old rocking chair.

May: Printing plate for The Congress voting independence

A framed print of revolutionary gentlemen having a discussion hangs above a copier. In the foreground is the mirror image of the same work, engraved into a copper plate.

When I pulled this plate for a researcher in the reading room I thought it looked familiar, and for good reason: the print hangs in the library! Having both the printing plate and the final print feels special and is a great opportunity to learn more about printing history.

June: a scrap of paper from the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts

A single scrap of paper sits in a folder. It is approximately 1 inch by 4 inches and has small manuscript numbers written in the upper left hand corner.

 I found this scrap of paper while searching for an inventory in the Jefferson papers. It is simply labeled “strip of paper w/ numbers” and is undated. I’m not sure why this scrap remained with the collection, but I’m glad it did!

July: The Irish in America by Carl Wittke

Book cover with the text "The Irish in America / Carl Wittke"

One of our printed resources, I found this in the stacks and photographed it to share with a friend.

August: Fred’s Breeches

Comical drawing of a man with mustache and receding hairline, whose breeches extend up to his neckline. He holds a top hat in his left hand, a riding crop[?] in his left. Not signed.

Another item requested by a researcher, this charcoal, chalk, and crayon drawing amused all of the library staff.

September: The Castorland Journal

A manuscript volume sits open on a book rest, mid-imaging. The pages have watercolor sketches of rivers on the left side and text in French on the right.

This journal, written in French by Simon Desjardins, describes the journey of the New York Company, a group of French emigrants who settled in New York in 1797. This page is a part of the topographical survey of the land.

October: Voltaire’s An essay on universal history

Antiquarian books on a shelf. Volume three is labeled, but volumes one and two are missing labels and are secured with book tape, a cloth ribbon.

This set of volumes caught my eye in the stacks one day. I appreciate their various conditions, and the places you can see where volumes one and two would have matched volume three.

November: recipe for Thanksgiving Pudding from the Frances A. Frothingham recipe book

A manuscript recipe for Thanksgiving Pudding, attributed to Annie L. The top half of the page contains the recipe, while the bottom is covered in splatters from long-ago cooking.

Thinking back to my gingerbread blog post from last year, I decided to check out some other cookbooks in the collection. Many pages in the cookbook were covered in splatters like the ones on this page. I love the signs of use and hope that Frances and her loved ones enjoyed many Thanksgiving puddings.

December: Edgecomb (Maine) tax list, 1795-1796

A manuscript list of names, accompanied by the taxes they owe for the year.

My family came to visit the library a couple of weeks ago, so I pulled one of the items in the collection related to our home town. We had fun looking for names that we recognized, from local landmarks and from local families. For instance, Moses Davis is the namesake for Davis Island in Edgecomb.

I hope you enjoyed this look back with me! If you want to see any of these items, or any other items from the collection, come visit us in the library in the new year!