By: Allyson Holliday, W.S. Hoole Library Complex Copy-Cataloger
In the spirit of the season… there’s something for everyone in the Division of Special Collections! Whether it’s skeletons, haints, headless horsemen, witches, or demons, we have your interests covered.
For skeletons: take a look at Hollick’s Outlines of anatomy and physiology published in 1846. This text features a “dissected plate” of human anatomy and is extra special due to the signature on the front flyleaf from Thomas A. Cooper. Cooper was a distinguished actor and is recognized as America’s premier tragedian. Cooper was born in London in 1776 and found great success on the London stage as Hamlet and Macbeth. He would later travel to America and make appearances in the theatre scenes of Philadelphia, New Orleans, Boston, New York, and cities in-between from 1796 until his death in 1849. His repertoire included 2,671 performance nights including 37 leading roles from Shakespeare’s plays (Smith, 299).
So now – haints? What is a haint? It is a word that I, as a Midwestern transplant, did not know before moving down South. As defined by the Urban Dictionary, a haint is a Southern colloquialism for a ghost, apparition, or lost soul. For some good ole Alabama haint stories see Haints, ghosts & boogers : chillbump stories from Alabama after dark by Lynn Grisard Fullman. This book features some little known spooky tales from The University of Alabama, including “The Rocking Girl at the University” from the New Hall dorm and “The Late-Night Class in Smith Hall.” For more on campus haunts see the chapter on The University of Alabama entitled “Haints of War and Reconstruction” in Haunted halls of ivy: ghosts of southern colleges and universities by Daniel W. Barefoot.
If you prefer headless horsemen, Hoole Library has a beautifully bound and illustrated copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving in the Richard Minsky Collection. The binding design was created by Margaret Armstrong, whose work is featured in Publisher’s Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books. This copy has a white checkerboard grain cloth binding with yellow, green, red, and gold stamping featuring a floral design. It has cream endpapers printed with a brown goblet, pipe, and pitcher pattern. The binding has Armstrong’s signature on the front cover.
And last but not least – witches and demons. Letters on demonology and witchcraft addressed to J.G. Lockhart, Esq. by Sir Walter Scott, has been recognized as one of the earliest attempts to deal with magic and demonology scientifically – spurring a flurry of late nineteenth-century research on folklore, ethnology, and popular religion. Scott discusses opinions on demonology and witchcraft from the Old Testament period to his own time. Examining Scottish trials for witchcraft, Scott noted that the kind of evidence admissible gave free reign to accusers and left the persecuted no hope of escape. Prisoners were driven to confess by despair and the desire to avoid persecution.
Ironically, this edition was included in Harper’s Family Library as volume no. 11. The title certainly does not suggest light-hearted family reading. However, the publisher’s series title was a marketing gimmick. With the word “library” in its series title, the publisher reinforced the notion that purchasers were not only buying books, but building libraries. Harper’s Family Library was advertised as the cheapest series of popular works ever published and included 187 non-fiction titles (American Antiquarian Society).
For these items and many more…come visit us. But watch out! Our corn husk doll is making the rounds this week, keeping an eye on things.