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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 736

Human curiosity prints, playbills, broadsides and other printed material


Collection of printed material concerning human curiosities, chiefly people exhibited in and around London and the United States.


  • 1695-1937

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


1.5 linear feet (3 boxes)

The collection consists of images, chiefly intaglio prints, but also some photographs; broadsides and playbills of shows; and other materials concerning human curiosities. Most of the human curiosities are medical anomalies, giants, dwarfs, etc., such as Józef Borusławski and Patrick Cotter, but collection also contains images of people known for unusual activities or feats, such as Captain Robert Barclay, who walked 1000 miles in 1000 days; André Garnerin, inventor of the frameless parachute; and Laura Dewey Bridgman, an educated deaf-blind woman.

Biographical / Historical

Human curiosities, usually referred to as "freaks," are persons with something extraordinary about their appearance or behavior. A "freak show" is an exhibition of such persons. Changes in popular culture and entertainment led to the decline of the freak show as a form of entertainment.


Arranged into the following series:

  1. I. Prints and images
  2. II. Playbills and broadsides
  3. III. Other material

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Source and date unknown unless noted at item level.

Processing Information

Processed by: Susan Wyssen

Human curiosity prints, playbills, broadsides and other printed material, 1695-1937: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440