Houghton Library, Harvard University, has started digitizing some of the many Edward Lear manuscripts in their collections. Two weeks ago, the never-before-published Mrs. C. Beadon Edward Lear scrapbook, 1852-1880. MS Typ 55.23 went online. Beside a number of sketches, this contains three sets of drawings for norsery rhymes, two versions of “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” and Lear’s adaptation of “Humpty Dumpty.”
The second manuscript is Sketches of new and rare plants discovered in Braneland /by Professor Nonsensica: manuscript, [186-]. MS Eng 797.1.. This was published by Philip Hofer as Flora Nonsensica (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard College Library, Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, 1963) in a limited edition of 2000 copies. However, Vivien Noakes in an Appendix to her edition of Lear’s Complete Verse and Other Nonsense (London: Penguin, 2001, 465) states that this is not by Lear himself. Noakes does not give any reason, but her statement seems to be confirmed by the handwriting, which is very different from Lear’s, and the fact that the drawings are on tracing paper and might have been made by someone else in preparation for More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc. (1872). The title page has never been published, and disappeared from the published botanies.
The Houghton Library Blog, moreover, has annouced that three new Lear-related finding aids have been added to their OASIS database:
- Edward Lear Drawings of Animals and Birds, ca. 1831-1836 (MS Typ 55.12);
- Edward Lear Drawings of Landscapes, Animals, and Birds, ca. 1849-1855 (MS Typ 55.13);
- Edward Lear Sketches of Parrots Relating to Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots (1832), ca. 1830 (MS Typ 55.9).
I have heard that at least one more manuscript is going to appear in the near future.