New Acquisitions: 19th Century Women Travel Writers

March is Women’s History Month, and today we examine three recent acquisitions of travel narratives written by women.

Title page, Narrative of the life and travels of Mrs. Nancy PrinceA Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince (1853). Nancy Gardner Prince was a free-born African-American woman from Massachusetts. She traveled to Russia with her husband, Nero Prince, who worked for several years as a footman at the czar’s court. After returning to the United States, Nancy went on two mission trips to Jamaica. She lectured and published on her travels as well as publishing several editions of this travel narrative.


Title page, The Englishwoman in RussiaAnother in-depth account of life in Russia is The Englishwoman in Russia: Impressions of the Society and Manners of the Russians at Home (1855). This work, by a pseudonymous “Lady,” has been attributed to Mrs. Andrew Neilson, the wife of an English businessman, but it has also been attributed to Sophia Lane Poole, author of The Englishwoman in Egypt, and to traveler and philanthropist Lady Judith Cohen Montefiore.



Page 1, A Residence at Sierra LeoneA Residence at Sierra Leone (1849) was compiled from the journal and letters of Elizabeth Helen Melville. Elizabeth and her husband Michael Melville lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone for many years while he worked in the British colonial government, including serving as a crown prosecutor fighting the slave trade and as Lieutenant Governor. Elizabeth’s book discusses her husband’s work as well as life and society in 19th century British West Africa.

Special Collections contains a wealth of travel accounts by 19th century women in books and periodicals. These books and other accounts can be found in the library catalog by using the subject search using geographic place names in combination with the search string “description and travel.”


Darwin’s Descent of Man

On this day 150 years ago, 24 February 1871, Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex was published by John Murray. On the Origin of Species had appeared 12 years earlier, introducing Darwin’s theory of evolution; with The Descent of Man, Darwin took the theory to its next logical conclusion by applying it to Homo sapiens. The Descent of Man actually marks the first time Darwin used the word “evolution” in print, on page 2 of the first volume. Murray issued 2500 copies in February 1871, but demand for the book was such that several thousand more copies were printed in March, April, and December of that year. Darwin was able to correct some minor printing errors in the various re-issues which help to distinguish the first issue from successive printings.

BYU Special Collections owns two copies of the first edition, first issue of The Descent of Man, which evidence a slight difference in height between the two copies. The second copy is of particular note due to its provenance. It was owned by Baroness Henrietta M. Stanley (1807-1895), a staunch 19th century advocate for women’s education. Baroness Stanley promoted the opening of the medical profession to women and was a founding patron of Girton College, the first women’s college at the University of Cambridge. Her signature, and a library shelfmark on the blank pages opening the first volume of her copy, are featured in the photograph below.

Thomas Bullock papers (Vault MSS 772)

Thomas Bullock (1816-1885), clerk to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a newly digitized collection: Thomas Bullock papers (Vault MSS 772).  This collections contains materials pertaining to the life and family members of Thomas Bullock, who served as clerk to both Joseph Smith (in Nauvoo) and Brigham Young (in Utah). The collection includes both personal and professional records, including journals, letters, financial records, certificates, genealogical data, partiarchal blessings, and poems. Bullock’s original journals document day to day life, spiritual experiences, and recorded historical moments while living in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1845-1846 and on the Mormon Trail in 1858. They are great sources for the final days of the Saints before the forced exodus from Nauvoo. A majority of the financial records concern Bullock’s family members.  The poems included here were written by Eliza R. Snow for Thomas Bullock.

Thomas Bullock was born on December 23, 1816 as the youngest of nine children to Thomas and Mary Bullock in Leek, Staffordshire, England. At age thirteen, he began apprenticing as a clerk at a law office. In 1838, he began working in the government’s excise department and married Henrietta Rushton. They were baptized as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in November of 1841. By 1843, Bullock and his family traveled to the United States to join the other Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Thomas’s clerkship skills enabled him to serve as Joseph Smith’s personal clerk up through Joseph’s martyrdom. He later stayed behind to record the saints’ final days in Nauvoo before their mass exodus to Salt Lake City, Utah and then recorded their consequent pioneer trek west to Utah. He held numerous clerkship positions in Utah for the duration of his life, including clerking for Brigham Young and various projects for the Church.

Bullock practiced plural marriage. In addition to Henrietta, he married Lucy Clayton in 1846 and Betsy Prudence Howard in 1852. Thomas Bullock died in Coalville, Utah on February 10, 1885 leaving behind twenty-three children.

Doing our part to celebrate Black History Month 2021

East Felicinia Parish bill of sale (MSS SC 1147)

As was recently announced, the Lee Library will be joining the national celebration of Douglass Day, named for Frederick Douglass whose birthday was February 14. Douglass Day is the precursor to Black History Month.  Douglass Day will take place on February 12, 2021, and will include a transcribe-a-thon of historical documents related to Black history. This year they are transcribing the papers of Mary Church Terrell, founder of Douglass Day in 1897.  If you want to participate in the transcribe-a-thon, visit this site:

While Perry Special Collections does not focus on collecting documents specifically related to Black history, we have collected some over time. Most of these are related to the tragic story of the enslavement of Black Africans in early America.  We acknowledge that this is an unfortunate and terrible blotch on America’s history. Our hope is that by ensuring this history is well documented and accessible, future generations can learn from past mistakes. In this vein, we are doing our part to join in this celebration by releasing for transcription on Douglass Day (February 12) a small selection of recently digitized 18th and 19th century documents related to Black history!

If you are interested in helping to transcribe these items, visit the BYU Transcribe website. Anyone can participate, but you will need a BYU NetID. If you do not already have one, you can create one by filling out a form here.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the documents from Perry Special Collections that will be available to transcribe on February 12:

This month in Reformation history

The winter of 1520-1521 marked a crucial turning point in the theological conflict between Martin Luther and the papacy. Pope Leo X issued an official decree (or “Bull”), Exsurge Domine on June 15, 1520 which condemned Luther and his teachings. Luther received a copy of the decree in October. It gave him 60 days to recant. Instead, Luther wrote more tracts against the Pope, and on December 10, he burned the decree in public.

Both the Pope and the newly-elected Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, felt that something needed to be done about Luther. The Pope formally excommunicated him on January 3, 1521, and asked Charles to enforce civil penalties. The Holy Roman Empire held a regular council, or “Diet,” to settle disputes between various states in the empire, which opened on January 23, five hundred years ago. Luther was summoned to appear before the Diet, though he would not arrive until April. He expected to be able to debate his ideas before the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, unaware he was on a collision course with the Emperor and Pope who wanted him to recant his beliefs.

Special Collections owns copies of many of Luther’s writings from the winter of 1520-1521, including his polemical response to the papal decree, entitled “Against the Execrable Bull of the Antichrist” (shown here) and more conciliatory writings like “On the Freedom of a Christian.” To find more key works by Martin Luther, visit the Renaissance and Reformation Collection page or search the library’s catalog.


Modern Fine Press Collection exhibit

This winter, the L. Tom Perry Special Collections salutes the work of modern fine printers and artists working with the book as a medium with a small case exhibit titled “A Printer Wonderland.”

It has been common practice for many modern fine printers to produce small keepsakes at Christmas or New Year’s, including cards, broadsides, and pamphlets. This exhibit gathers some delightful examples, like the Christmas stamp flag book and Edward Gorey holiday cards in the case pictured above, as well as winter-themed stories and poems published by fine press artists working in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom.

The exhibit will be in Special Collections’ lobby through the end of January.

Detectives in “The Strand”

Detective fiction was growing in popularity when London publisher George Newnes decided to launch a new magazine in 1890. The very first issue, dated January 1891, led with the detective story “A Deadly Dilemma” by Canadian author Grant Allen. Over the next six decades, The Strand Magazine would feature a host of fictional sleuths, most notably Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. This blog post will look at some of the lesser-known detective stories published in The Strand in its early years, with images from original issues in the Victorian and Edwardian Collections.

The Sherlock Holmes stories later collected as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes appeared in the July 1891 through December 1893 issues of The Strand. Prior to Sherlock Holmes, the most popular fictional detective of the day was “Dick Donovan,” the creation of J. E. Preston Muddock. Dick Donovan stories were issued alongside Sherlock Holmes stories in 1891 and 1892 issues of The Strand.

Writer L.T. Meade (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) teamed up with a medical doctor, Clifford Halifax, to create a series of mysteries solved with knowledge of medicine and psychology, entitled “Stories from the Diary of a Doctor.” The first series ran in 1893 alongside Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes stories and the second series ran in 1895. Meade would create a second popular detective series for The Strand in 1902-03, featuring a female criminal mastermind named Madame Sara, “The Sorceress of the Strand.”

In 1894, Arthur Morrison’s detective Martin Hewitt kept readers interested in the absence of Sherlock Holmes. The stories were designed to be similar but different enough from Doyle’s; there is a Watson figure, a journalist named Brett. The Hewitt and Holmes mysteries even shared the same illustrator, Sidney Paget. Morrison published additional Martin Hewitt stories in Windsor Magazine, a competitor to The Strand, throughout 1895.

Grant Allen introduced two women detectives to readers of The Strand in 1898-99: Miss Cayley, a single woman who solves crimes while traveling through Europe, and Hilda Wade, a nurse with a photographic memory. Allen dictated the final episode in the Hilda Wade series to Doyle on his deathbed. Other notable mystery content in early volumes of The Strand includes stories featuring gentleman criminals by popular writers Benjamin Farjeon and Florence Warden.

Looking to read some of these stories? Many of these detective series were gathered and published in book form. Oxford University Press published an anthology of the best Detective Stories from “The Strand” in honor of its centenary in 1991. And you can find links to digitized copies of The Strand in the library’s catalog through the Lee Library’s membership in HathiTrust.

November Film Series in Quarantine: SCARED STIFF (1953)

To find options to see SCARED STIFF, you can look at streaming options HERE since we couldn’t find a disc at any local library.

There’s something rotten on Lost Island, or at least something haunted. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis inadvertently agree to help the beautiful Lizabeth Scott return to her ancestral homeland off the coast of Cuba and hilarity ensues. Martin stows away in Scott’s trunk when pursued by the police for a murder he did not commit. Then, Lewis stows away in the same trunk when mobsters seeking revenge for the mob boss’s philandering girlfriend fingers his character. Along the way a real mystery ensues as Scott’s island is shown to contains an enormous treasure. These situational events showcase the comedic and singing talents of what had become the famous Martin and Lewis team.

Viewers of the film will be led along by the frenetic pace of the story, jumping from one set of problems to another all because of Martin and then made worse by Lewis. If any moment becomes a little too serious, or romantic, between Martin and Scott, Lewis appears with a host of related difficulties made worse by his slapstick attempts to help. Motivations aside, Lewis as the actor is trying to be as irritating to the film goer as possible without actually turning them off to the film, which in turn makes Martin seem all the more smooth and debonair by comparison.

One scene to watch for in the film is when the two are pressed into service on the boat ride to Cuba to pay their passage. Martin sings, while Lewis “ruins” the show, in the same fashion as many of their live performances. It is a way of seeing them on stage without going to the clubs along the East Coast they were famous for playing. In these scenes you’ll also see the famous Brazilian samba singer Carmen Miranda, in her final film appearance before a fatal heart attack. It was a fitting coda for the 1940s film and music star.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis shared the professional spotlight as a team for only ten years, but what a ten years it was. Seventeen film appearances, their own television show on the fledgling NBC network, five years as the stars of their own radio program and countless club shows along the way. As fate would have it, their last club appearance on 25 July 1956 at the Copacabana Club in New York came exactly ten years to the day after their first show in Atlantic City. And, like much of their stage act appeared, being thrust together in 1946 was accidental, when Lewis suggested to the club manager Martin take the place of the absent regular club singer. The rest quickly became history.

Behind the scenes, and thankfully outside of the viewers enjoyment, the duo was in trouble. They didn’t want to make the film, with Martin in particular feeling like the story wasn’t very original. However, Paramount held them to their contract and filming took place in June and July 1952. Released in April 1953, it was a financial success for the studio and the actors. Tension between the two stars percolated beneath the surface during the filming and for another four years, until their sudden break immediately following the show. In later years neither could readily identify a reason, but Lewis said they didn’t talk privately for twenty years.

For After the Movie:

There is a double homage embedded within Scared Stiff, both revolving around Bob Hope. You’ll remember when confronted by Mr. Ortega, the mysterious and ultimately mortally dangerous antagonist of the film, Dean Martin says he’s a ghost buster, like a trust buster, a bronco buster, or a gang buster. This may be the first time the term is used in film and inadvertently influenced the 1984 comedy, Ghostbusters. Dan Aykroyd credits the now more obscure Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard 1940 film, The Ghost Breakers, as inspiration for his iconic supernatural fighting team. Indeed, Scared Stiff is a thinly veiled remake of this earlier film.

The second homage to Bob Hope is far more direct, as you saw just a few minutes before the film ended. While Scared Stiff was the eighth feature film for the Martin and Lewis duo, it is their ninth appearance on screen. They had appeared in the 1952 hit, The Road to Bali, in a brief cameo every film goer of the time would have recognized. A short two years later Hope and Crosby returned the favor.

Brian Wages, Reference Specialist
Harold B. Lee Library, Social Sciences

John Gerard’s English herbal

The Lee Library recently digitized a well-known book of early modern English science: the 1633 edition of John Gerard’s Herball, or Generall historie of plantes (online at Gerard was a surgeon and herbalist who curated the Royal College of Physicians’ garden of medicinal plants. He first published his herbal, which is a type of encyclopedia of plants focusing on their medicinal properties, in 1597. BYU’s copy of the 1597 edition is incomplete.

Gerard took his text from a 1554 herbal by botanist Rembert Dodoens, but added his own observations and descriptions based on the plants he grew. Gerard’s herbal is the first to illustrate the potato (seen in the image above) and also contains information about rare plants cultivated in England. As was common, Gerard’s herbal is not organized alphabetically, either by the English or Latin plant names. It is indexed both by plant name and by the “virtues” or medicinal properties of the plants.

For more information on Special Collections’ early botanical books, see the “Brief History of Natural History” collections guide. Other examples can be found in the library catalog by searching on the subject term “Botany—early works to 1800.”



November Film Series in Quarantine: THE COURT JESTER (1955)

Short plot summary: Danny Kaye stars in this swashbuckling historical comedy musical. The farcical romp plays on the tradition of historical adventure films like The Adventures of Robin Hood in an airy manner that delights and entertains on multiple levels. The kingdom has been usurped by a murderous interloper and Danny Kaye’s outlaw minstrel seeks to place the rightful child heir in his correct place. A case of mistaken identity leads to his infiltration of the castle and his perilous intrigue to dethrone the imposter. Of course comedy ensues as nothing goes as planned!

The songs are hilarious: Pay close attention to the musical lyrics in each song as they were so cleverly constructed. It really is a lot of fun.

Life Could Not Better Be – this opening number sets up the entire trajectory of the farcical nature of the film as our minstrel sings about the film to come, the generic background it will play against, and specifics of how they spared no expense in their research.

Outfox the Fox is my personal favorite song in the film, and the whole number is cleverly choreographed and is a hoot that doesn’t wear out its welcome on repeat viewings.

The Maladjusted Jester is a wonderful song that even poignantly outlines the role of the comedian in times both historical and modern. They truly make their way by making fools of themselves.

Technical specs: Released in technicolor and in the widescreen VistaVision format. VistaVision was not an anamorphic widescreen process, but it flipped the 35mm film sideways so that stretching and compressing were not needed. This yielded higher quality visuals, and although it was short-lived (only about seven years) films still used it for special effects sequences for decades to come.

What was going on in cinema history when this was produced?

Boy, do I feel stuck in a particular time, with all of my suggestions this fall coming from the same era. This film came out in December of 1955, just before Christmas, but only in Japan. It came out in January in the U.S., so I wasn’t even sure what year to put after the film’s title. We will say 1955, but it was released domestically near the end of January 1956. Compared to my other two suggestions this fall, Forbidden Planet and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, all three of these came out within a year of each other. In this era there WAS a significant revival of historical costume dramas to showcase technological improvements and differentiate cinematic thrills from TV production. As mentioned in the earlier reviews from the mid-1950s, probably the most successful genre was the large-cast musicals. Against this backdrop the creators were inspired to lay bare all the conventions of these two types and play against them in a comical way.

This era in the 1950s is marked by the creative break from many of the norms established in the 1930s and 1940s. The Classic Hollywood style and genres were established during those two decades, and are beloved to this day, but in the 1950s there were creative movements to break out of conventions. The space movie, the absolute panic of the Body Snatchers, and now the farcical playing with genre were a result. I certainly love this post-classical era as well.

So please, enjoy the movie now. This is one of my family’s favorites that all of us of any age can enjoy.

Where is it available? Public libraries should have it: Orem has multiple copies confirmed (here 1LINK and 2LINK), Provo as well, the BYU library has more than one copy for those who have privileges, and for streaming rental or purchase it is available on YouTube, on GooglePlay, and Amazon.

For AFTER the Movie:

I hope you enjoyed the film as much as I do. The hypnotic back and forth gets everyone laughing and is a highlight for all screenings. The magnetic pulling of the helmet from Griswold’s hands is a most beautiful comedic moment in cinema. The repeated threats of Angela Lansbury to throw herself from the highest tower, and the repeated displaying of the baby’s behind are some of my favorite parts.

It really turns the genre on its head to have our hero NOT be Errol Flynn-type, but the one who cannot swordfight, who is a nursemaid, and shies away from killing and fighting. But a hero he is nonetheless. Glynis Johns did a terrific job in a fun role where her role must take on many of the genre’s conventional hero duties.

While the film was a commercial bomb the first time through, it has since been recognized as a comedy classic, and I hope you will agree.


This was the most expensive comedy up to this time. Typically, comedies were inexpensive to make because they often require relatively small casts and minimal sets. But in order to appropriately lampoon a “big budget” historical adventure/drama and “big budget” musicals it was requisite that they still invest in horses, elaborate costumes, full-scale sets, and a large cast. The budget for the picture then was very similar to what would be typical for this genre, running up to over $4 million in 1955, adjusted for inflation that would be almost $39 million for today! The film was considered a flop, because it only earned back $2.2 million in the box office (21.5 million today).

Basil Rathbone was an excellent swordsman. Danny Kaye was not. Kaye’s comical sword fighting performance was so manic and haphazard that he diverged widely from rehearsed steps and almost skewered Rathbone multiple times during their exchange. Rathbone has stated that it was only due to his quick prowess that he wasn’t injured and that he was truly fighting for his life out there when the audience is laughing in the aisles.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this king of movies and movie of kings!

Ben Harry, Curator
BYU Motion Picture Archive

Recent Posts