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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
Link to catalog
Human curiosity prints, playbills, broadsides and other printed material, 1695-1937: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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