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About Exhibitions @ Hill

Seeing and “The Eye of the Imagination”: Fantasy, Surrealism, and Horror in the Clarence John Laughlin Book Collection

July 2 – September 21, 2018

in Upper and Lower Main Galleries

Book Cover - Zombie: The Living Dead by Rose LondonMagazine Cover: Zoom (Japanese edition)

LSU Libraries Special Collections presents  the exhibition, Seeing and “The Eye of the Imagination”: Fantasy, Surrealism and Horror in the Clarence John Laughlin Book Collection. On view from July 2 – September 21, 2018 at Hill Memorial Library at LSU, the exhibition features a broad selection of highly visual printed works which represent the range and depth of the Laughlin Book Collection.

Clarence John Laughlin (1905-1985) was a New Orleans writer, photographer, and book collector.  His consistent preoccupation with the metaphysical fueled his imagination and creativity.  His works always included both words and images, one informing the other.  Laughlin often wrote about his personal creative process, driven to share the transformative and heightened sense of reality he experienced.  He took great interest in exploring the inner reality of subconscious thought, especially in relation to his work.

Clarence John Laughlin annotated copy of Checklist of Fantastic LiteratureBest known for the surreal photographs of architectural decay in his seminal work, “Ghosts Along the Mississippi,” Clarence John Laughlin considered himself, first and foremost, to be a book collector. Laughlin eventually amassed an extensive library of over 32,000 books meant to inform and enhance the creation of art.  Acquired in 1985 with support from the Friends of the LSU Libraries, the Clarence John Laughlin Book Collection mirrors the eclectic interests of its creator, measuring equal parts fine art, fantasy, the occult and science fiction. Books pertaining to his particular interest and ideas about “seeing” and alternative realities are well represented in the collection and are explored within the exhibition.

Seeing and “The Eye of the Imagination” is free and open to the public. Visit or call (225) 578-6544 for hours of operation and directions.

Images: Selections from the Clarence John Laughlin Book Collection. Top row: Zombie by Rose London; The Colour Out of Space written by H. P. Lovecraft, illustrated by Virgil Finlay; Zoom Magazine, Paris edition. Middle row: Laughlin’s annotated copy of The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Bottom row: Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury; pouchoir illustration by Yan B. Dyl from Henri de Regnier’s Le Miracle du Fil; cover of the 1948 edition of Laughlin’s Ghosts Along the Mississippi.

Book Cover: Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury Illustration from Le Miracle du Fil by Henri de Regnier/illustrated by Yan B. DylBook Cover: Ghosts on the Mississippi by Clarence John Laughlin









Joseph Watson Correspondence

Summer 2018

in Reading Room

Joseph Watson served as mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from October 1824 to October 1828. During his tenure, Watson utilized city resources to investigate a string of cases involving the kidnapping of free people of color. Watson’s correspondence, dating from 1826 to 1828, documents his efforts to locate the citizens of his city who were taken and sold as slaves in Mississippi and Louisiana. Four children, ages 10 to 14, were rescued by John W. Hamilton and John Henderson of Rocky Spring, Mississippi in the winter of 1825. Additional correspondence details an 1827 investigation into the disappearance of 5 more children ranging in age from 7 to 19 who were sold by Patrick Pickett and his wife under an assumed name.

Joseph Watson writes to Philip Hicky, a prominent Baton Rouge planter, seeking information about the kidnapping. Watson gives the names and ages of those missing and indicates that one of Hicky’s slaves, James Dailley, and another unnamed boy were sold illegally and asks that Hicky return them. Though Philip Hicky’s reply initially indicates concern for the plight of the kidnapped individuals his overall reaction is one of hostility and skepticism. Though Hicky admits to purchasing a slave named “Jim” from Patrick Pickett’s wife (then going by the name of Emilia Pickard) he still expresses doubts about the veracity of witness testimony. Hicky requests additional proof before he will agree to release James Dailley. In his response, Watson remains persistent and unwavering. Watson indicates that he has already sent sufficient proof through Duncan S. Walker of Natchez and insists that Hicky cooperate with the investigation.

These materials are from the Joseph Watson Correspondence, Mss. 1872, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections.