Odds and quads

These are among the more unusual items held by the John Hay Library at Brown University on Rhode Island.

July 28, 2011

The unopened bottle of wine was given to the comic author S.J. Perelman - perhaps most famous for co-writing some of the Marx Brothers' best scripts - in 1966. It was a birthday gift from Saul Steinberg, a cartoonist on The New Yorker, to which Perelman frequently contributed.

Although Napoleon was adamant that he did not want his death mask to be taken and turned into a souvenir, his doctors could not resist creating a mould of wax and plaster. This copy was eventually bought by Brown alumnus Paul Bullard.

Equally strange are the Civil War revolver, which a researcher happened to find in the archives, and the mummified crocodile, about the size of a shoebox, from the Koopman Collection of first editions.

Brown was founded before American independence, in 1764, and forms part of the Ivy League. The John Hay Library is the second on campus, and celebrated its centenary last year. It is well known for a small collection of books rebound in human skin.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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