News Release - The Huntington Acquires Papers of F. Marion Crawford, Popular 19th-Century American Novelist

Feb. 7, 2019

Library Collectors' Council also purchases maps related to China's Boxer Rebellion, a collection of Civil War letters by a former Shaker, four rare 16th-century medical texts and an exquisite 1590s miniature prayer book

SAN MARINO, Calif.—The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens announced today that it has acquired the largest trove of writing by American novelist F. Marion Crawford (1854–1909) in existence. Crawford was admired in his day by Robert Louis Stevenson for his vivid portrayals of foreign lands and envied by Henry James for his ability to churn out bestsellers. He was a prolific author, publishing 44 novels and scores of short stories, essays, and plays. In addition, Crawford may be the first author to portray Sicily's mafia in an English-language novel, Corleone. The collection includes complete autograph manuscripts for seven novels and two plays, partial manuscripts for five works, and outlines and notes for several novels and essays.

The works were purchased recently at The Huntington’s 22nd annual Library Collectors’ Council meeting. The Council also purchased two large, rare, and detailed maps, created in 1900, that depict the foreign legation (or diplomatic) quarter in Beijing during China’s Boxer Rebellion. Among the first and most important maps ever created to illustrate the dramatic course of events during the siege of the Legation Quarter, they also offer invaluable clues about a fire at an adjacent library from which The Huntington’s single volume from the Yongle dadian, a rare 15th-century Chinese encyclopedia, was rescued.

In addition, The Huntington acquired a collection of 142 letters by Warren D. Chase (1827–1875), a white soldier in the Civil War who wrote vivid, candid, and often heart-rending accounts of his experiences in the Union Army, which included a stint in the newly organized 14th Colored Infantry Regiment. As a former Shaker—a religious sect that separated itself from the secular world—Chase provided an outsider’s perspective on the grim realities of African-American service and the war’s horrors.

Further treasures acquired include a prayer book with a black silk velvet cover and gleaming heraldic device (produced around 1590 for Gilbert and Mary Talbot, the 7th Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury) that includes Catholic prayers at a time when England was officially Protestant; and a single bound volume containing four rare first editions of books by Paracelsus (d. 1541), one of the most influential medical authors of the 16th century.

The Library Collectors’ Council is a group of 45 households that assist in the development of the collections by supporting the purchase of important works that the Library would not otherwise be able to afford.

“These new acquisitions will help researchers push out the boundaries of human knowledge in numerous directions—in the history of the Pacific Rim and the literature and history of 19th-century America, to name just a few,” said Sandra Brooke, Avery Director of the Library at The Huntington. “We are forever grateful to the Collectors’ Council for its generous support in helping us continue to build The Huntington’s dynamic library collections.”

Highlights of the newly purchased materials include:

Papers of F. Marion Crawford (1854­–1909)
“In the early 20th century, it would have been unthinkable that F. Marion Crawford’s name would fade from public view,” said Karla Nielsen, curator of literary collections at The Huntington.

A hugely popular writer on both sides of the Atlantic, Crawford was born to expatriate parents in Italy, where he lived for most of his life.

He was a master storyteller in an astonishing array of modes: historical romances, tales of the strange and uncanny, society dramas. His horror and fantasy stories are still frequently anthologized. “The Upper Berth,” a maritime ghost story, is the most commonly reprinted, followed by the vampire tale “For the Blood is the Life,” which features a female vampire.

The Huntington’s newly acquired archive includes drafts of novels set in Gilded Age New York City; one of his histories of Rome, Ave Roma Immortalis; one of his longer supernatural novels, The Witch of Prague; and two unpublished plays, Marion Darche and By the Waters of Babylon. Also represented are manuscript drafts for two in a series of Italian historical romances, including Saracinesca (1887), which has been considered his most accomplished work. Another book in that series, Corleone, focuses on the maffeosos in Sicily.

“Academics working in book history and publishing studies will be interested in Crawford’s outlines and the markups in his manuscript drafts,” said Karla Nielsen, curator of literary collections at The Huntington. “They reveal an author deftly plotting his novels within market constraints, thinking about the word count and pacing limitations of serial publication.”

The Legation Quarter in Beijing, 1900
From June 20 to August 14, 1900, much of the world was fixated on the Boxer Rebellion unfolding in Peking (now Beijing), China. More than 900 foreign civilians and soldiers from the British Empire, United States, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, and five other European nations, along with more than 2,000 Chinese Christians, were forced to retreat into the Peking Legation Quarter (the foreign diplomatic quarter), an area that measured roughly 765 by 1,400 yards.

They were surrounded by more than 20,000 Chinese Boxers, or members of Yihetuan, a peasant-based group whose aim was to drive foreigners and Christians out of China. For 55 days, the foreigners and Chinese Christians were under siege; they were rescued by the Eight-Nation Alliance, a joint multinational military coalition.

“These two legation maps are the firsthand accounts of Henry Edward Colvin Cowie and Harley Bascom Ferguson, members of the joint armed forces that occupied Beijing after the siege,” said Li Wei Yang, curator of Pacific Rim collections at The Huntington.

Henry Cowie (1872–1963) was a British-Indian military officer and engineer. During the Boxer Rebellion, he was a member of the British contingent of the Eight-Nation Alliance and was tasked to create an accurate map—the first of its kind—of the British Legation during the siege. There is only one other known surviving copy of the map, held at the London School of Oriental and African Studies.

Harley Ferguson (1875–1968) was a U.S. army officer and engineer active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a member of the U.S. contingent of the Eight-Nation Alliance, Ferguson was assigned to compile a detailed map of the Legation Quarter. He drew upon Cowie’s survey of the British Legation and expanded the map with his own observations. The cyanotype map was printed in Beijing in 1900, and only three copies are known to exist today.

Correspondence of Warren D. Chase (142 letters, 1862–1868)
On February 2, 1853, the journal of the Shaker community of New Lebanon, New York, recorded that Warren D. Chase and Mary Frances Crocker “concluded to forsake their Father’s house & seek asylum in some other region.” Chase had lived in New Lebanon since he was a young child, occasionally even acting as a spiritual medium, conveying messages from Ann Lee, the Shakers’ deceased founding “Mother.”  In love with Crocker, Chase could not remain in a community that shunned marriage.

“The strictures imposed by the society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing were not for everyone,” said Olga Tsapina, Norris Foundation Curator of American History at The Huntington. “We, however, usually don’t know what happened to those who left the society. This remarkable collection offers a unique insight into the life of one former Shaker.”

Chase and Crocker married shortly after they left New Lebanon. By 1861, the Chases were living in Rochester in Racine County, Wisconsin. In September 1862, Warren enlisted in the 22nd Regiment of Wisconsin Infantry; the bulk of his letters cover the period when he was in the army. His correspondence documents a hospital stay, a stint in the 14th Colored Infantry Regiment, and the 10 months he spent fighting with Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia and the Carolinas.

“This was quite an odyssey for a man brought up to shun the world,” said Tspaina. “An earnest young man and natural writer, possessed of a distinctive Shaker sensibility that combined self-sufficiency with a commitment to the common good, Chase wrote long, insightful, and unflinching letters to his ‘much loved Mary.’”

Shrewsbury Miniature Prayer Book (c. 1590)
This prayer book, with its black silk velvet cover and gold champlevé decorative embellishment, is as much an art object as a manuscript. (Champlevé is a decoration made by filling hollows in a gold surface with colored enameled glass.) The volume was a treasured object as well as text, and it is among the finest examples of a champlevé binding made in England in the 1590s.

The 1559 Act of Uniformity and Act of Supremacy re-established Protestantism as the religion of England. In 1571, the accepted doctrine of English Protestantism was solidified in the Thirty-Nine Articles. Yet the “Elizabethan Settlement” did not guarantee that all English subjects adhered to the state-sanctioned religion. This miniature prayer book, owned by a couple who were secretly Catholic, testifies to the continuation of Catholic worship in England, subversive as it may have been.

“The gleaming heraldic device on the front and back covers tells us that this riveting little volume was produced for Gilbert and Mary Talbot, the 7th Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury,” said Vanessa Wilkie, William A. Moffett Curator of Medieval Manuscripts and British History at The Huntington. “The couple was a fixture in the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts, and their careers and scandalous reputations are well documented.”

Mary Talbot (1555–1632) was the daughter of the celebrated Elizabeth Cavendish (1527–1608), better known as Bess of Hardwick, wealthy member of the English nobility. Gilbert Talbot (1552–1616) was widely reputed to have a combustible temper and lavish taste.

The Huntington has one of the world’s most important collections for the studies of English religion, the Reformation, and 16th-century elite family culture.

“This book, although less than four inches in length, offers vital opportunities for studying the history of the book as an object, the crypto-Catholic lives of one of the most well-documented Elizabethan families, and the relationship between printed and manuscript prayer books during The Reformation,” said Wilkie.

Four Rare First Editions of Paracelsus
The Huntington has acquired a single bound volume containing four rare first editions of books by Paracelsus von Hohenheim (d. 1541)—a Swiss physician, alchemist, and astrologer. This volume fills a major gap in The Huntington’s history of science and medicine collections, which previously contained only one 16th-century edition of Paracelsus.

“The four books in this volume are each uncommon and in especially fine condition. Copies in the U.S. are scarce, and most are not found anywhere on the West Coast,” said Joel Klein, Molina Curator for the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences at The Huntington. “They are an excellent representation of the iconoclastic philosophy of Paracelsus, who hated the traditionalist universities. Ultimately, his works were instrumental in changing the way Europeans thought about illness, suggesting that diseases were actual entities with powers to harm the body rather than merely the imbalance of bodily humors.”

The volume complements several of The Huntington’s collections and builds on strengths established by Henry E. Huntington himself. The Huntington has the largest collection of medical and scientific incunabula (books printed before 1501) in the Western Hemisphere. It also holds one of the most extensive collections in the U.S. of early English printed books, which includes numerous translations of Paracelsus. Owing to the acquisition in 2006 of the Burndy Library and the deposit of the Los Angeles County Medical Association’s rare books collection, The Huntington is home to one of the largest collections in the history of science and medicine in North America.


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Thea M. Page, 626-405-2260,
Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140,

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