In celebration of the centennial of the John Hay Library, we asked the archivists there to tell us about some of the more unusual objects that have managed to enter the collection over the years.
Here are some of their nominees:
NAPOLEON DEATH MASK Although
he insisted this not be done, the doctors at Bonaparte's death bed in
1821 used wax and plaster to create a mold of the deceased's face. It
was then transported to England, where it was copied and sold for
profit. Over the decades it found its way to Paul Bullard, class of
1897, an avid collector of printed caricatures and satires of Napoleon.
CIVIL WAR-ERA REVOLVER A few years ago, a faculty member stumbled upon this in the archives and decided to go outside and test it out. Fortunately, it was not loaded.
WOMEN'S PLATFORM SHOES from
the 1940s. With a red leather exterior and snakeskin inserts, these
were donated by Arlene Rome Ten Eyck, a member of the illustrious Ten
Eyck clan, whose lineage in this country goes back to the 1600s. The
bequest was fitting (pun intended) because the patriarch of the family,
Patriarch Coenradt Ten Eyck, was a shoemaker.
UNOPENED WINE BOTTLE given to New Yorker humor writer S. J. Perelman '25. It's believed to have been a gift to Perelman on his birthday in 1966 from New Yorker
cartoonist Saul Steinberg, though the label is cryptic: "For Sid /
Happy Birthday / Saul / Feb 77 / STEINBERG / 1966." In any case, the
vintage was clearly not to Perelman's liking, as he never drank it.
MUMMIFIED CROCODILE Among the Koopman Collection's 5,000 first editions, rare books, manuscripts, and drawings dating back to the fifteenth century you will also find this crocodile. About the size of a shoe box, its teeth remain fully intact.
Photos by Frank Mullin