Harvard Library Highlights Drug-Themed Santo Domingo Collection

Some light reading for the Alpen retreat. See Houghton Library for more on the book’s provenance.

An American “hygienic physiology” textbook of 1888 subtitled “with special reference to the use of alcoholic drinks and narcotics.” Adolf Hitler’s copy of Kokain, a German translation of Cocaina, the 1921 narco-novel written by Dino Segre under his pseudonym Pitigrilli. A 1973 “psychedelic guide to preparation of the Eucharist in a few of its many guises” published in Austin, Texas, combining spiritual and biochemical instructions in the use of mescaline and other hallucinogens.

These items suggest the breadth of the more than 50,000 pieces in the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection, now stored at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. The bulk of the collection focuses on the production, use, representation, and study of drugs. Santo Domingo (1958–2009) was an investment advisor who became a full-time collector, acquiring material from 19th-century French literature to 21st -century comics. His family placed his collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, audio materials, and films on long-term deposit at Harvard last year.

This year the librarians combing through the collection have been displaying intriguing discoveries on Houghton’s Modern Books and Manuscripts blog. In coming weeks, Points will be cross-posting a number of such entries, as part of an occasional series highlighting recent acquisitions, discoveries, and announcements in various archives.

Houghton librarians emphasized that the Santo Domingo collection enriches and greatly expands Harvard’s holdings on psychoactive drugs and their physical and social effects—from cultivation and synthesis to the myriad cultural and counter-cultural products linked to altered states of mind.

Read more