Portrait of a Poet

There are two days during the year when you are bound to come across some version of the portrait above: Halloween, when we gather about us anything spooky, ghostly, ghastly, or tragic; and the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth in 1809, which is today.

The source of this well-known image is actually a daguerreotype, a single positive photograph made from a simple camera and "fixed" on a copper plate coated with silver. The daguerreotype process (named after Louis Daguerre, a French painter and master of the diorama, who perfected and announced the process in 1839) was the first to permanently capture photographic images.

Daguerreotype subjects had to remain motionless for several minutes while the primitive camera did its work, so people in these early photographs often look rigid, blurry, pained, or inert. Given the gloomy trend in the mid 1800s to commemorate dying elders and dead children in daguerreotypes--or even just sleeping children (often the only way to get them to stay still) in anticipation of possible death in an era of high child mortality--you would not be alone if you found these images to be, well, kind of creepy.

And there are additional fonts of creepiness to consider! Because of the silver coating on the plate, a daguerreotype has a mirrored surface--chances are you'll see your own reflection within or on top of the photo. The coating is also fairly delicate and vulnerable to scratching. For this reason, nineteenth-century owners of daguerreotype portraits kept their precious pictures in small, velvet-lined, hinged cases, often with a memento related to the subject tucked inside. And if that memento were a newspaper obituary, or a lock of hair from a deceased loved one? The whole package becomes increasingly eerie.

So how does this context shape your response to the familiar, doleful image of Edgar Allan Poe? Knowing that the melancholy expression on his face and the discomfiture of his pose are somewhat characteristic of the photographic culture of the time, does Poe suddenly seem more typical and less... Poe-ish?

If the possibility of a typical Poe sends chills down your spine, let me offer you a few reassuringly odd tidbits. Rather than marvel at the distinctive mournfulness of the well-known Poe portrait, you can ponder the fantastic fate of the Poe daguerreotypes en masse.

As many as ten daguerreotype portraits were made of Poe in his lifetime. The one that is best known, often called the "Ultima Thule" image after poetic line by Poe, was taken in Providence, Rhode Island in 1848, a few days after Poe tried to commit suicide. (Needless to say, he was not looking his best.) For years, it was on display in Providence... but around 1860, it was lost or stolen. What we see above is a daguerreotype copy of the original daguerreotype. (Or rather, a copy I made of a digital reproduction of the daguerreotype copy.) And that daguerreotype copy was not the only one: at least five other copies of the 1848 daguerreotype were made... although one of these was also lost or stolen. Even stranger, of the other daguerreotype portraits made of Poe, many have also been lost or stolen. Two of these ten are gone forever--no copies were made, and their existence is known only through historical references. Another five of the original ten are also lost, but we can get a sense of them through photographic copies... some of which, again, have also been lost.

Confused yet? You can get a fuller and less bewildering account of the Poe daguerreotypes from this book by photographer Michael Deas. To make matters even stranger, Poe himself was one of the earliest commentators on the new daguerreotype invention--showing a characteristically acute understanding of the technology and its symbolic significance.

Of course, we must add to this story of image losses and copies the more recent creation of thousands, if not millions, of copies and recreations of Poe photographs. Poe tattoos, t-shirts, and tote bags abound; artists use the 1848 photograph as the basis for all kinds of Poe-rific riffs on melancholy, loneliness, and the infinite human appreciation for large black birds, as anyone knows who has searched google images for "Edgar Allan Poe." For a more carefully curated collection of Poe images in contemporary times, check out this digital exhibition made by Hopkins students in the class "Edgar Allan Poe & His Afterlives." They also made this timeline of major events in Poe's life.

The history of Poe photographs is a hall of mirrors, full of disappearances, confounding origins, multiplication, and disorientation. And for Poe, that's perfectly, uncannily appropriate.

Plagiarism: What You Can Do To Avoid It

Melania Trump (Photo: Voice of America)

Melania Trump (Photo: Voice of America)

T.S. Eliot, essayist, publisher, playwright (Photo: Ottoline Morrell)

T.S. Eliot, (Photo: Ottoline Morrell)

Pharrell Williams, entertainer, producer (Photo: Shawn Ahmed)

Pharrell Williams, (Photo: Shawn Ahmed)

Joe Biden, official U.S. Senate photo (2005)

Joe Biden, official U.S. Senate photo (2005)







What do Joe Biden, Pharrell, Melania Trump, and T.S. Eliot have in common? They all have been publicly tainted by charges of plagiarism -- that's right: using the words, ideas or images of others without giving originators proper credit. For these folks, the consequences of plagiarizing have not killed careers or tarnished legacies, but we can imagine that they wished they had not put themselves in the position of being labeled as a plagiarist.

Did you know there are different kinds of plagiarism? For example, you can commit plagiarism against yourself (self-plagiarism), or use phrases from another person's work without using quotation marks (mosaic-plagiarism). In other words, it's easier to commit plagiarism than one might think. 

ENROLL TODAY!  Whether calculated or unintentional, plagiarism is plagiarism, and can have serious consequences. Don’t put yourself in that position; learn to avoid plagiarism by taking the self-paced module developed by the Library – Avoiding Plagiarism.



Chock full of examples and interactive activities, the course helps you develop skills for effective paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting and proper citing -- all necessary skills if you want to avoid plagiarism.  You will also learn about the type of assistance you can get here at Hopkins, what your particular school really says about plagiarism, and what happens if a student plagiarizes.

Already know some of this?  The module won’t waste your time, as it allows you to test out of sections you know well, and concentrate on sections where you may need a review or practice. Upon completion of the module, you will receive a certificate.

Why wouldn't you want to avoid plagiarism? Challenge yourself and self-enroll in the course!


The above photos are Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons and/or Creative Commons.






Why We March

When people feel they are not being represented—that their voices and experiences don't matter, when they feel there is a great wrong in the world, and when they have simply had enough—they often take to the streets and march. Increased acts of civil disobedience rose around the world after Percy Shelley’s poem The Mask of Anarchy and an essay by Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century became popular rhetoric with freedom movements of the 20th century. Protestors increasingly took to the streets: Ghandi in 1930 for the great Salt March; protestors opposing apartheid in South Africa; students demonstrated for weeks in Tiananmen Square in 1989; the Arab Spring Protests in 2011; and more. While civil disobedience at its root is based in nonviolence, protesters often risk harm and even death when those in power decide to respond.

Across the U.S., protest movements are both an integral part of our past and how we display our opposition to conditions of the day. In our very recent past, protesters have taken to the streets from Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 to Standing Rock in North Dakota in 2016. Peaceful protest is a tool that Americans continue to use across all states in order to give a voice to those who feel they are not heard. But, no location features as prominently for protest movements in the U.S. as Washington DC. Suffragists marched on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1913 for access to the vote. Infamously, large numbers of KKK members turned up to march in DC in 1925. Throughout the Vietnam War, protesters marched on Washington in both opposition to the ongoing conflict and conversely—though in much smaller numbers—in support of Nixon. In 1993, possibly the largest peaceful U.S. demonstration was the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. The largest distance covered to protest was the 1978 Longest Walk from San Francisco to DC in objection to increasing legislation that threatened tribal land and water rights.

Civil rights movements are some of the most prominent for making Washington DC their target in the 20th century. The Black Panthers and Louis Farrakhan have called on the leaders of the U.S. from the Mall to legislate to improve conditions for Black Americans. And certainly one of the biggest and most diverse marches was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Although Martin Luther King Jr. helped lead many marches around the U.S., it was the sweltering August 1963 march in which he delivered his unforgettable Dream Speech that is etched as a cornerstone in American history.

While marches and rallies in opposition to government were once seen as actions by radicals—every move by Martin Luther King was tracked by the FBI, after all—it has become an increasingly acceptable public show of a group’s objection to government. Current marches of the day include an annual March for Life in opposition to Roe V. Wade and the Rolling Thunder annual motorcycle rally to support and give voice to veterans and POWs.  On January 21, 2018, many have committed to attend the Women's March: Power to the Polls, which will launch a national voter registration tour one year after the historic Women’s March on Washington.

People have marched on Washington DC for over a century now in order to give a voice and show of solidarity when they feel that their needs and rights are not being heard or responded to by those who legislate. The ability to be seen and heard and march for that in which we deeply believe is an important aspect to how we peacefully attempt to display our dissent.

Learn more about protest movements:

Artificial Languages, Universal Languages

Esperanto. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/foobarbaz/6967534104/in/photolist-bBGr9m-59FAVL-4MP7tL-3zKPv-7mEr4d-2zHowq-JyQWM-2ikw6n-7LTEAv-5eYYXM-xtSwv-cZk68u-2Nb6w-aafjVz-aH9z9-drufUS-59Bofi-8TzwbW-JyQW4-JyQVt-JyQUM-2P2p3-7nVTEM-8u4Huz-amPhT6-6fmP3p-6fr16A-6Wxvik-aKWcZ8-2ipPCS-48wEJ2-am9NLx-amPhXD-amS833-amPhLe-amS7XC-amS7UU-8u7P1w-6ojJT1-6KiT8M-ecLdRD-q3T2W-kwok-pMP8k-aafjX8-K59gF-4ELHDM-ayeUX9-7n7AUC-59FAEwAn undergrad recently asked me about Lojban.

Those in computer science and related fields have probably heard of Lojban (a constructed language, formerly known as Loglan). And most of us have heard of Esperanto (a "universal" language), and other "constructed" languages such as R'lyehian and, of course, Klingon.

Are there a lot of artificial languages? (They’re also referred to as “planned,” “invented,” “made-up,” and probably a few other terms as well.) Yes, indeed there are.

I started my exploration with A Dictionary of Made-up Languages (2011).  The introduction tells us that there are more than 100 “made-up” languages; for the scope of this book, the author focused only on those that are written and/or spoken, leaving out sign languages and computer languages.

I loved Appendix A: Works, Language Creators, and the Languages Associated with Them (p. 273), which lists many favorite languages of us fantasy and science fiction fans, including

How *should* we refer to these languages? Our JHU catalog shows that there's been a lot of interest in languages that "everyone" can speak, and somewhat less interest in the kind of languages that we're discussing here:

Klingon. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/airforceone/3434565251/in/photolist-6ev3Ag-63j4wg-7dWmj3-8kBK18-y2pu2w-y2psVo-cL5YNu-4YJXjq-4PL2bQ-8zPn5g-8z4T3D-6gBZfQ-54Esiw-buN2wq-ngK4g-8kBzQ4-fbwnKn-4tULr3-6JzEER-dEq9xh-2UXrec-8kEMFE-58XTGW-8kByY8-8kBCWT-4EQvR-7dUQFS-8kBxrP-8kBwye-9MtxE1-748EZA-fvNC6i-33vYdv-33Aw37-9D6KzP-9vw5Lu-4CLqjz-34THfm-8kBFN6-2Zq3Co-8kERQy-53GGXj-5Rz4uc-99yuZe-8kETAf-39jdCx-6rStud-8kBDTz-BTDEU-58s8HX

nuqjatlh? Klingon

However, other catalogs such as the Library of Congress and WorldCat show quite a few more books about artificial and imaginary languages.

Google’s N-Gram Viewer shows that “invented,” “planned,” and “made-up” were never popular, and “constructed” had tiny blips in the mid-1850s, 1930, and the mid-1940s. “Artificial language” has always been around and was at its highest use in the mid-1960s.

As shown, the much more popular term has always been -- at least since 1800 -- “universal language.” Unlike languages spoken by fictional groups, or entities who don't usually speak (at least that we know of), like the animals in Animal Farm, a universal language is spoken by everyone (whomever that may be). The universal language could also be used for communicating in a group who all have different primary languages (as Esperanto was used in Philip Jose Farmer's vast and imaginative Riverworld series [use Borrow Direct for these]).

On your next study break, wander down to D Level -- on the BLUE shelves, in the P120.I53 section, browse through Encyclopedia of Fictional and Fantastic Languages or Lunatic Lovers of Language: Imaginary Languages and Their Inventors.

Try it yourself, or see what other "conlangers" are doing.


My Freshman Fellows Experience: Exploring the Life & Legacy of José Robles Pazos

Enjoy this post by Tim Lyu, one of our 2017-2018  Special Collections Freshman Fellows.

In 2016 the Hopkins’ website, said in undisguised pride, “For 37 years in a row, we’ve put more money into research than any other U.S. academic institution.” Honestly, this is precisely what I had in mind as I came across the flyer about Freshman Fellows in a dimly-lit corner of a men’s restroom in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library – the opportunity to conduct  humanities research and even get paid for it.

See below for an explanation of this poster.

On a more serious note, however, my interest in independent, literary research traces back to the last semester of my high school career. In my senior spring, I compared and contrasted the literary works (letters, memoirs, novels, etc.) that came out of the Chinese Cultural Revolution to those of the Japanese American internment experience during WWII. By juxtaposing these two historical events, I attempted to illustrate the ways by which multiple languages help victims of history bear the memory of their traumatic experiences. Through this research, I’m more convinced than ever of the resilient power of words to tell stories despite the limits of time, culture and space. Moreover, I started to realize the contemporary significance of literary research, for my own helped me better understand the various forms of public grief – the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and even the recent removal of Confederate statues – we’re experiencing in the U.S. today.

Even more, my unique encounter with the translation between languages as well as cultures primed me for what I plan on accomplishing as a Freshman Fellow. Right now I’m investigating the mysterious Jose Pazos Robles, a professor of Spanish at Johns Hopkins from 1920 to 1936. Unfortunately, Robles was on vacation with his family in Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Although Robles supported and worked for the Spanish Republican Government, or the Loyalists, as an interpreter at the Russian Embassy, he disappeared in 1937. Years later it was learned he had been executed by the Loyalists as an alleged spy for Francisco Franco, leader of the opposing Nationalist forces.

Therefore, my research aspires to demystify the ambiguity surrounding Robles’ death, the chain of unfortunate events leading to it, and its long-lasting repercussions. I started the research through a close-reading of the correspondences available at Special Collections, many of them handwritten by various people of the Hopkins community, members of Robles’ family, and Robles himself.

It has been a real treat to read these letters. Some of them deal with the mundane logistics of Robles’ insurance and unpaid royalties from his publishers, exhibiting the bureaucratic responses of the companies demanding more evidence of Robles’ death. Others showcase the baffled, helpless family of Robles – his wife Margara, his daughter Marguerite, and his son Francisco – in desperate need of financial assistance while still praying for Robles’ return. Regardless of the content, these yellow papers, wrinkled at the edges but alive with wildly cursive handwriting, show a fragment of history that has been forgotten by many but had been lived by a few. From the ink of these Spanish words, some of them crossed out and rewritten, I can almost smell the puzzlement of Marguerite, sitting alone in her apartment in France and waiting for news of her father; the dread and unease of Francisco, fearing for his own destiny, who was later interned as a prisoner of war; and the sincere hope of Hopkins Professor H. C. Lancaster, a colleague and friend of Robles, to help the poor, shocked family of Robles.

All these details sum up what I’m truly passionate about: to relive the history through primary resources, something I didn’t have access to in high school. And I’d like to design this project, with the help of my mentor Jim Stimpert, so it becomes more than a mere translation from Spanish to English or a case study of Jose Robles alone. Instead, by utilizing secondary resources such as biographies, movies, or even war propaganda posters, I’m hoping to use the story of Robles to shed light on some details of the Spanish Civil War, which served as a historical prelude to the larger conflict between the geopolitical powers of the Communist Soviet and the U.S. during the Cold War. Furthermore, I’d like to examine ways in which the people of Hopkins and Baltimore, including Professor Lancaster, Hopkins President Isaiah Bowman, Professor Esther. J. Crooks of Goucher College, and Baltimore lawyer Emory Niles, had been supporting Robles’ family. More than a story of betrayal, death, and misunderstanding, the mystery of Robles is also a testimony to friendship and solidarity across national boundaries in times of crisis.

While I’m still at the beginning stage of my research, I understand that my goal is definitely subject to change. But what I enjoy the most about the process is not finding the answer but rather the opportunity to follow one question into many others.


Explanation of the "Madrid" poster (above)

This image of a poster became rather famous in the propaganda war between the Loyalists and the Nationalists in Spain in 1936.  The child in the center is allegedly a victim of a Nationalist (Franco) bombing attack that took place in Getafe, a town near Madrid.  The poster, published by the Loyalists, is trying to show how inhuman the Nationalists were in using indiscriminate bombing of civilians (and children) to further their political aims.  It was an effective tool at the time. The back story is that there is at least some doubt as to whether the atrocity in Getafe actually took place.  -- Jim Stimpert, Senior Reference Archivist, JHU Special Collections.



My Freshman Fellows Experience: Conversations with the Supernatural

My name is Chloe Otterson and I have had the amazing opportunity to work with Special Collections to research nineteenth century supernatural phenomena. Before I continue, allow me to introduce myself. I’m a freshman originally from rural New England, but I am steadily growing accustomed to living in a city. I plan to pursue a double major in the Writing Seminars and Psychology. I have two dogs and three siblings and my favorite ice cream flavor is salted caramel. I hope you know a little bit more about me now. How did I get here, and more specifically how did I find myself in the Special Collections Reading Room learning that dreaming of pineapples foretells crosses and troubles?

My sister, a current sophomore at Johns Hopkins (all three of my siblings are current JHU undergrads!), sent me a link over the summer for the Freshman Fellows program with the brief message: “Do this.” She has yet to truly steer me down the wrong path, so I looked into the program and I am so glad I did. I’ve had an interest in all things supernatural and otherworldly since I was little, so when I saw the collection “Conversations with the Supernatural”, I knew I had to apply.

I have absolutely loved exploring the material. Palmistry guides, horoscopes, dream omens, phrenology…what more could you ask for? One book was even owned and signed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle! For the past couple of months, all of my anecdotes have been vaguely disturbing facts about what people believed in the nineteenth century. Did you know that people believed having a pineapple-shaped head (There are a lot more references to pineapples than you would think.) indicated that you were a boaster? Some of my favorite parts have been the introductions of the books. Often, they serve to justify or legitimize their topics or simply to explain their positions. One claims it is a translation of a book by Napoleon Bonaparte. They zoom in on aspects of life we barely blink at today, such as the phenomena of how we often dream of actual people and situations. While today I might simply chalk it up to stress over an upcoming exam or a weird sandwich I ate the day before, nothing is a coincidence for nineteenth century believers.
The author of The Spirit World Unmasked, Henry Ridgely Evans uses the theory of evolution to support his argument for the spiritualistic school of thought while also having a moment existential dread:

“Evolution points to eternal life as the final goal of the self-conscious spirit, else this mighty earth-travail, the long struggle to produce man are utterly without meaning” (Evans 14).

What really resonates with me is how people in the nineteenth century attempt to grapple with life around them from new scientific discoveries to the changing roles of women. For my research, I want to study the supernatural through the lens of humanity. Nobody just decides that the size and shape of a person’s head says everything about their character for no reason. As a hopeful writer, my interest is in exploring the human condition. Participating in the supernatural and conducting yourself as an expert in the supernatural held a lot of power especially for women and minorities and I look forward to learning more about the practices and how they affected social issues of the time.

Curiosities in Special Collections

Freshman Fellow Keyi Lin

Freshman Fellow Keyi Lin

My time at Hopkins so far has been built off discovery. Discovering what it’s like to live in the States, discovering my ideal study places around the campus and the best food places in Charles Village, and discovering old and rare books at the Special Collections.

Alongside my intended major of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and my intended minor in Classics, I nevertheless still try to keep up with my other interests – the most prominent of which has been folklore. Over my time here, I acquired a few books on Irish folklore, a decent edition of Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, and have been continuing to make my way through all of Andrew Lang’s coloured Fairy Books. And of course, I’ve been exploring the works at the Special Collections.


STEM and the humanities are far too often viewed as opposing fields, but I like to think that this is not the case. The two have a lot more in common that many would imagine. Both require a generous degree of creativity, logic and reason to seek out the answer to some of life’s greatest questions, particularly those concerning the natural world. The methods used and the fields of interests investigated will differ, but both still serve the purpose of exploration and explanation.

This is where folklore and legend come in.

FOLKLORE has often been used as a means to seek an explanation for phenomena before such were elucidated with the scientific process (it has been proposed that the changeling myths were representative of children with development disorders), or to aid people with grappling with struggles and issues present in their daily lives (for instance, the Evil Stepmother trope is seen as an expression of fear over lost inheritance). Much like how tragedy serves a cathartic purpose, one’s pain and confusion is alleviated through these stories.

I once said that entering the Special Collections was like entering the faerie realm – one taste of it, and I would stay here forever. Of course, this place is a lot more pleasant than any hostage situation, and if anything, becoming a Freshman Fellows is making me more connected to the human world. The opportunity to investigate through works centuries-old and to have that glimpse in the minds of those of the past definitely gives me a decent scope of where I stand in this world.

Here, at the Special Collections, I’ve decided to focus my research on something that speaks to a very primal human instinct – fear. Throughout European folklore, natural philosophy and science, monsters and monstrosities are common and present. If fairytale tropes are often influenced by human struggles, or serve as a way of understanding inexplicable phenomena – I wondered –, is that the same case with monsters?

I began my journey by going through books of natural philosophy – the precursor to our modern natural sciences. Some of these books contained studies of monsters and grotesques, or of mythical creatures rumoured to roam undiscovered parts of the world. Others are medical accounts, some containing foetal disorders or birth defects.

Of the former, one of these books was Fortunio Liceti (1577 - 1657)’s De monstrorum causis, natura et differentiis (“Of the Causes of Monsters, their nature and differences”), written as a documentation of reports of monsters and so-called “freaks” in nature during his time. What was particularly interesting was that Licetus did not emphasise the abnormalities of the creatures he wrote of. Rather, his view, which differed greatly from common European opinion, was that grotesques were fantastical rarities, comparable to an artist’s unconventional creation.

There was also a book written in French, with several anatomical drawings. It is surprisingly easy to mistake some of these illustrations for monsters or mythical creatures. In fact, with a human-like skull and ribcage, and the bones of a prehensile tail, the skeleton of a white-bellied spider monkey could also be passed off as a mermaid.

It was also interesting – as well as tragic and unfortunate – to note that people of ethnic groups outside of mainland Europe were included alongside collections of monsters. Bulwer’s Anthropometamorphis (Man Transformed, or the Artificial Changeling) contains a “pedigree of man”, culminating in the “English gallant”. Giovanni Botero’s Aggivnta Alla Qvarta Parte Dell’Indie contains some creatures we would regard as fantastical near the beginning, yet the last few pages are dedicated to foreign humans. These examples show a clear example of the degree of racism acceptable in the society under which the books were published then, and illuminates further ideas of the authors’ interpretations of “monsters”.

Throughout the books containing collections of monsters and grotesques, I observed a few common themes. For starters, many of these monsters and grotesques present were fusions of humans and animals. “Abnormal” numbers in body parts (such as multiple limbs or eyes), or body parts in different places (wings attached near the buttocks, arms at one’s neck and hip) were common. Additionally, there were many illustrations of conjoined twins and other birth defects. Although not as common, there were also quite a few instances of sagging breasts.

These have strong roots with reality. There’s nothing particularly alien introduced about the monstrosities present; all the “parts” present on them are things we can find in the real world.

I’m inclined to agree with Licetus. The sublime, perhaps confusing, beauty of nature is present in all its ugliness. These monsters are not grotesque because they are otherworldly. On the contrary, they are grotesque because they are normality altered – out of place with what we regard as conventionally beautiful.

This merging of natural philosophy, medical anomalies and folklore, I believe, provide an interesting insight on how we, collectively, as humans, mould and play around with the concept of “monster”. Just as fairytales take inspiration from the life experience of its storytellers, those who record and create monsters are shown to find their basis from somewhere.

As a Molecular and Cellular Biology Major, there is nothing more beautiful to me than life itself – and, in particular, the diversity of life. The world may not be filled with the same peculiarities in the tomes present at the Special Collection, but nevertheless, the variety of it is still to be appreciated.

So, I suppose, while I’ll be hunting monsters here at the Special Collections, what I really am finding is my own humanity.


Keyi Lin, Class of 2021

Fairy Tales for Christmas Holidays

As a young girl growing up in Indonesia, I remember that Christmas was one of my most favorite times of the year. My parents bought us a small Christmas tree that my siblings and I decorated. Every evening, during the month of December, my mother would read to us fairy tales from the story books that we borrowed from our school and local libraries. After sunset, we would light small candles in our living room and turn on the Christmas lights on the decorated tree to set a magical ambience for the fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm were among the authors whose works we read the most.

If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane and revisiting some fairy tales from your childhood, this is a great time to do it! A quick subject heading search in our library catalog displays several fairy tales from different countries such as AfricaDenmark, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Norway. Or if you prefer to read only Christmas stories, they are available too. You can also search for works by Hans Christian Andersen, Jacob Grimm, and Wilhelm Grimm using our library catalog.

Interested in seeing some rare editions of the fairy tales? You can visit both the John Work Garrett Library and the George Peabody Library.  You can do subject keyword searches for “fairy tales” limiting each to the Garrett holdings and the Peabody holdings.

As always for your viewing pleasure, several cartoons of the famous fairy tales such as Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid are available. Recently, when I was searching for the Sing Sweet Nightingale song from the famous Cinderella cartoon, I was pleasantly surprised to find it several languages – Italian, Russian, Norwegian, Greek, Dutch, Arabic, Swedish, and many more.

Apart from rare books in our libraries’ collection, there are also several freely available online resources. For example, the University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Children’s Literature has a good collection of fairy tales and Christmas stories. Another academic library that has a good digital collection of fairy tales is the University of Southern Mississippi Libraries. If you would like to know about other resources, take a look at the SurLaLune Fairy Tales, the Project Gutenberg, and the Children’s Books Online.

Last but not least, you may also be interested in viewing images from Vintage Fairy Tale and Fairy Illustration Before 1970 group uploaded by Flickr members. This set has an excellent collection of illustrations. Now, that you are in the mood to read some fairy tales, I recommend that you also check out the Best Christmas Of All, and Joy to the World from Disney’s Very Merry Christmas songs.

Wishing You Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!

Let there be Light!

As our daylight hours dwindle, I am always reminded of Dylan Thomas. Not because he wrote "A Child's Christmas in Wales," but because of his poem "Do not go gentle into that good night." Thomas of course was writing of a much more permanent darkness, not the perennial shrinking of the day's sunlit hours, but still, I always "rage, rage, against the dying of the light" at this time of year.

The Winter Solstice, which occurs on December 21 this year, is the shortest day of the year. The good news is, days will very slowly get longer and longer, until the Summer Solstice in June. But if you can't wait that long to bask in bright light, walk, bike, or drive over to the Hampden neighborhood for one of Baltimore's weirdest traditions: Miracle on 34th Street.

Now in its 71st year, this block-long display of lights, moving figures and sculpture is definitely a one-of-a-kind holiday experience. Some call it "gaudy, ugly", and some call it "awesome, beautiful". Either way, go see it and decide for yourself. It's part of the Hopkins experience!

Holiday Treats!

Plum pudding served on a plate

Plum pudding

Are you eagerly anticipating traditional holiday foods? Or, perhaps you are interested in baking some cakes and cookies? Celebrate the spirit of the season with some cool recipes from our library and other collections that are available online for free. If you are in the mood to try out pudding, check out Plum Pudding: of Divers Ingredients, Discreetly Blended & Seasoned.

Apart from our library holdings, there are good online recipe collections. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has great historical menus in their digital collections. There are also some delicious recipes from the Feeding America Cookbook Project which includes Christmas Cookies, New Year’s Cake, Ginger Cake, Plum Pudding, Egg Nog, and many more! As you are working on preparing the feast, enjoy watching the strange traditions clip from the History Channel.

By the way, if you're in Baltimore and coming to the library, be sure to check the hours we're open.

Have a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!